Roman coin hoard, Iron Age gold to stay in UK

Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:02am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - One of the largest hauls of Roman coins ever to be found in Britain and a hoard of exquisitely decorated Iron Age gold neck ornaments unearthed in Scotland are to be saved for the nation.

Both national treasures were in danger of being sold to private collectors and may have disappeared abroad if museums had not been able to raise money to secure them.

But funds donated through grants from the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) ensure they will now go on public display in Britain.

The Frome Hoard, comprising 52,500 coins dating to the 3rd century, was discovered by a metal detector enthusiast in a field near Frome in Somerset last summer.

The astonishing hoard, which weighs 160 kg (xx lbs) -- as much as two grown men -- is the largest collection of Roman coins found in the UK in a single earthenware pot.

The four solid gold neck ornaments, known as torcs, also found with a metal detector, this time near Stirling in 2009, date from between the 1st and 3rd century BC.

The hoard comprises two items made from twisted ribbons of gold, half an ornate one of southern French origin -- the only one of its kind found in Britain -- and a unique braided gold wire piece.

Jenny Abramsky chair of the NHMF said the "stunning hoards, which provide true insight into Britain's rich and diverse history" join a collection of heritage treasures saved by the public fund over the last 31 years.

The Museum of Somerset takes possession of the 320,000 pound ($516,800) Frome Hoard, while the torcs valued at 462,000 pounds will join the National Museum of Scotland's collection.

(Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; editing by Patricia Reaney)