In our last post, we began the tale of treasure hunting partners Reg Mead and Richard Miles. After hearing a story from a farmer’s daughter about a field of silver coins near Grouville on the island Jersey, the two searched the island for 30 years trying to find the fabled spot. Finally, they found the field and made some exciting headway by using a deep-seeking metal detector.
When the detector went off, Mead and Miles spent more than 40 minutes digging. After getting a meter or so down, their shovel hit something. With a wedge and a thrust, a spray of dirt and coins shot up from the hole. With that, the two took a step back and evaluated their digging and their findings to date. It became clear that they had something monumental on their hands – a treasure too big for just two metal detectorists. They covered the hole and hid all traces of their search and excavation, then contacted archaeologists at the Jersey Heritage museum.
Soon, a proper excavation team was assembled to document and examine any findings in the field. To date, the area’s location is a closely guarded secret and the site is protected as an “Area of Archaeological Potential.” While the entire field is an area of great historical significance, it’s the contents from the original hole that Mead and Miles dug which has stunned archaeologists the most. From that hole, excavators recovered a massive block of clay (nearly 1 ton in weight) that archaeologists estimate to contain about 50,000 coins. Experts are still carefully breaking down the block and cleaning each coin it contains, but its apparent that the hoard demolishes the record of what was previously the largest coin hoard on Jersey – only 12,000 silver pieces.
But where on earth did such a vast hoard come from? Historians currently believe – based on the age and markings on the coins – that the hoard is a result of Julius Caesar. During the Gallic Wars from 58 to 50 BCE, Caesar’s army was on a rampage in the West, displacing the Celtic tribes in the area. Clearly hoping to return someday soon, the tribes buried their wealth and fled from the advancing Romans.
Today, the 2000+ year old treasure has a whopping value of about $15 million. The treasure laws of Jersey aren’t exactly clear, but it’s expected that the treasure will belong to the British crown, while Mead, Miles, and the owner of the field will split a handsome reward.