Suffolk gives up its treasure

SUFFOLK farmland has yielded another amazing archaeological discovery with unearthing of Iron Age gold at Wickham Market.

SUFFOLK farmland has yielded another amazing archaeological discovery with unearthing of Iron Age gold at Wickham Market. But this is not the first time our county has hit the headlines for its hidden treasure - from Sutton Hoo to the Hoxne Hoard, underground Suffolk has been giving up its secrets.

JAMES MARSTON finds out more while JOHN HOWARD has been speaking to the man who made the latest discovery.

Headline: Suffolk's farmland gives up its treasure

Sub-head: Ancient history comes to life in county's fields

FOR millennia mankind has roamed the fertile plains of Suffolk, for millennia we have settled in this glorious county, for millennia we have left our mark.

Man has dug and ploughed, built and fortified and shaped the landscape to meet our needs - it is a process that continues to this day.

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Each phase of mankind's development has left its mark on Suffolk, and it is the role of the modern archaeologist to decipher the clues history has left behind.

Indeed Suffolk encompasses one of the most ancient regions of the UK

Evidence suggests Mesolithic man lived here as far back as 7,000bc and just over the border into Norfolk is the 5,000-year-old Grimes Graves.

Judith Plouviez, Suffolk County Council archaeology officer, said some of the earliest man-made flint tools ever made were found in Suffolk at Pakefield near Lowestoft.

She added: “People are finding metal objects and they are regularly reporting them to us and it doesn't have to be gold to tell us about the past. We have about 5,000 objects a year that come to us.

“Suffolk has evidence of all periods of history.

“The Mildenhall Treasure, Sutton Hoo, Hoxne Hoard are all from different periods as is this discovery so it is impossible to compare them to this discovery.”

Judith, a specialist in Roman archaeology said the Dalinghoo Gold is a significant discovery which tells us the Iceni tribe was active in the South East part of the county.

She added: “We haven't seen anything as big as this, the last find of Iceni coins was about 90 coins. The discovery tells us about the later iron age in Suffolk, there was a lot of wealth around and perhaps the hoard was in a disputed area.”

Roman settlements, Roman roads and Roman villas can be found across Suffolk - from Lakenheath in the West to Coddenham in Mid Suffolk to the remains of a Roman fort of the coast at Felixstowe.

And it was back in 2003 tv programme Time Team discovered a Roman Villa during at dig at Ipswich's Castle Hill area.

West Suffolk, like nearby East Cambridgeshire, is renowned for archaeological finds from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

Perhaps the most incredible find ever discovered in Suffolk from the time of Imperial Rome's administration of Britain was the Mildenhall Treasure.

A total of 33 Roman silver objects found in January 1942 by a Suffolk ploughman, Gordon Butcher, who removed it from the ground with help from Sydney Ford.

They did not recognise the objects for what they were, and it wasn't until 1946 that the hoard came to the attention of the authorities.

The treasure contains a large mid-fourth century silver-platter measures almost 2ft in diameter which weighs some 18lbs. It is one of the finest examples Roman craftsmanship that survives anywhere in the world.

And Ann Eastham, of West Row remembers seeing the treasure as a small girl.

She said: “I was about ten. I remember eating nuts and apples from the big, what we thought was pewter dish, at Christmas time.

“It was enormous. It had bacchanalian figures all round it. There were lots of other bits and bobs, spoons and a goblet, Sydney Ford was a collector of old flints and things out of the fen.”

The decoration on the dish shows a central head of the sea-god, Oceanus, surrounded by fantastic sea creatures.

Most of the treasure is overtly pagan in nature and the Bacchic items probably had specific religious significance; though there are a number of Christian items including christening spoons bearing the chi-rho monogram.

Here in the east of the county the 5th-century Hoxne Hoard of Roman gold, silver and jewellery uncovered by retired gardener Eric Lawes in Hoxne on November 16 1992.

It was a truly fantastic stash of an estimated 15,000 late 4th and early 5th century Roman gold and silver coins and around 200 items of silver tableware and jewellery. The hoard was believed to have been hidden during the political turmoil of the early 5th century AD as the Romans left Britain.

It is the largest hoard of late 4th and early 5th century Roman silver and gold ever discovered in the UK.

Stunning finds at Sutton Hoo radically altered the way historian's thought about Anglo Saxon England.

The 7th century burial ship unearthed by Basil Brown and Edith Pretty in 1939 included priceless royal treasures leading archeologists to suggest it is almost certainly the burial ground of East Anglia's Anglo-Saxon kings.

The discovery shed crucial light on the so-called Dark Ages.

The artifacts suggested a far more advanced and cultured society and political system than had previously been thought.

What would you do if you discovered treasure? Which is your favourite archaeological discovery? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The Iceni inhabited an area of Britain corresponding roughly to Norfolk between the 1st century BC and 1st century AD.

The Cenimagni, who surrendered to Julius Caesar during his second expedition to Britain in 54 BC, may have been a branch of the Iceni.

Archaeological evidence of the Iceni includes torcs - heavy rings of gold, silver or electrum worn around the neck and shoulders.

The Iceni began producing coins in about 10 BC.

Some coins are inscribed ECENI, making them the only coin-producing group to use their tribal name on coins.

After the Romans left Britain, it is thought that some of the Iceni migrated west, away from settling Saxons

The Icknield Way, an ancient trackway linking East Anglia to the Chilterns may be named after the Iceni.

SUFFOLK'S metal detector fan who found gold dating back to before the birth of Christ in a field near Woodbridge says the haul should go on display in Ipswich for local people to see.

The stunning Iron Age gold coins, which could be worth in excess of �577,000, have turned out to be one of the largest and most spectacular finds of its kind in Britain.

The collection of 824 gold staters was found in a broken pottery jar buried in a field near Wickham Market, and date from 40BC to AD15.

Now the man who found the treasure, who is keen to preserve his anonymity and gives his first name only as Michael, believes they should go on display locally.

Michael, who is 60 and lives near Woodbridge, said today: “I would like to see them in Ipswich Museum, where people can see them. If they go up to London it's a lot of messing about for locals to go up and see them there.”

The coins are currently at the British Museum in London where they are being assessed and a report is due to be presented to a coroner to discover if they are treasure trove, and then may be acquired by a museum, or museums.

If they do ultimately end up in the city because of their importance, which archaeologists describe as more interesting than the Hoxne Hoard because there are remains of a possible settlement at the site, they could be calls for them to be loaned to Ipswich on temporary display.

Cliff Green, 66, ho owns the land with his brother where the hoard was found in Dallinghoo, has been to see the coins in London where experts are working on them.

He said: “They are not on public display yet and are in a coin room and hopefully they will end up in a museum.”

The coins are thought to have been minted by predecessors of Boudicca - the Iceni Queen who spearheaded a revolt against occupying Roman forces.

Their value when in circulation had been estimated at a modern equivalent of between �500,000 and �1million by Suffolk archaeologists. In today's money it is thought they would be worth �700 each in excellent condition - making a haul of �577,500 for the hoard.

The collection of coins is now at the British Museum, where the curator of Iron Age coins Ian Leins is studying them with colleagues before producing a detailed report to be published in Easter this year.

All but two of the coins belong to the Iceni Tribe, native to East Anglia, and famous for their warrior queen, Boudicca.

The two other coins were minted in Lincolnshire. The five earliest date from 40 - 30BC and are known as Snettisham type after a hoard found in Snettisham, Norfolk, in the 1980s.

The bulk of the new hoard are from Freckenham type gold staters named after a hoard found in a pot in a garden in Freckenham, Suffolk, in 1885.

They appear to have been minted over a period of 20 to 30 years, circa 20BC to AD 15, possibly by two or more different rulers of the Iceni.

According to specialists in Iron Age coinage of East Anglia, the hoard was buried about AD 15.

The Treasure Act 1996 states that treasure found after September 2007 regardless of the circumstances in which it was deposited, even if it was lost or left with no intention of recovery, belongs to the Crown.

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