£1m hoard of ancient coins unearthed in farmer's field
An amateur with a metal detector could be in for an impressive - if belated - Christmas present after discovering a hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins valued at £1m in a farmer's field.
More than 5,000 silver coins were hauled out of the ground in near mint condition, having been buried in a lead container more than 900 years ago.
The coins were unearthed on farmland near Lenborough, Buckinghamshire, when 100 members of the Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club took part in an end-of-year rally. Included in the hoard are coins dating from the reigns of Ethelred the Unready (c.968-1016) and Canute (985-1035).
A coroner will now have to rule if the coins are "treasure" under the Treasure Act, which would mean a museum could buy them with the proceeds being split between the landowner and the finder. "This is one of the largest hoards of Anglo-Saxon coins ever found in Britain. When they have been properly identified and dated, we may be able to guess why such a great treasure was buried," said a spokesman for the Bucks County Museum.
Pete Welch, the founder of the club, said the coins were in astonishingly good condition: "They're like mirrors, no scratching, and buried really carefully in a lead container, deep down. It looks as though only two people have handled these coins. The person who made them and the person who buried them.
"Everyone dreams of a pot of gold. The reality is you spend most of your time digging up bits of junk. This is the first of its kind since I've been running the club, which is 23 years," he said.
"Metal detecting is a bit random but most farms have a bit of history so you have a chance of finding something."
He added: "I think this was a case of you either move to the right or move to the left, and on this case our member moved the right way."
The club member who found them is Paul Coleman (59).
There is, as yet, no hint of what prompt ed the burial of the hoard 2ft beneath the surface, but the condition of the coins suggests they were hidden during the 11th century.
It is possible that there is a connection with a mint that some historians believe King Canute established in Buckingham.
Ethelred became king of England aged around 10 following the murder of his half-brother Edward II in 978. In 1002 he ordered the massacre of all Danes in England to eliminate potential treachery. In 1013 Ethelred fled to Normandy when the Viking Sweyn of Denmark dispossessed him. He returned as king on Sweyn's death in 1014. He died in 1016.