Bulldozer driver entitled to keep half of a Roman hoard

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by Annika Backe

April 14, 2016 – When, on March 20, 2013, Mark Copsey set his bulldozer in motion, for levelling a recreation ground for a hockey pitch at Yeovil in the county of Somerset in England, he had no idea of what was lying there in the soil, waiting for him. He discovered a hoard find of 3,339 Roman coins dating from the 2nd and 3rd century AD.

Copsey put the coins, which he had spotted as something green, in a plastic carrier bag. The find was given to the British Museum, to be examined by the experts. They revealed that the coins included 164 denarii from the time of Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161) to Gordian III (AD 238-244). The hoard is likely to have been buried around AD 270. To that end, it was apparently carefully wrapped in a piece of cloth and bound with string.

The site, which had been populated as early as the Stone Age, was the home of the British Celtic Durotriges. When the Romans conquered the country, they built an important way not far away from Yeovil, linking today’s cities Lincoln and Exeter. The connecting line between Ilchester and Dorchester was also in Yeovil’s proximity.

A colleague of Mark Copsey claimed the exciting hoard was a team find. Now it has been ruled that Copsey is the sole finder of the hoard that is classified to be treasure under the Treasure Act, meaning that he is entitled to half of the find’s share, just like the South Somerset District Council as the landowner. The total value is currently estimated. According to experts, it may amount to 175,000 British pounds. The coins, currently still kept in the British Museum, are said to have aroused the interest of the South West Heritage Trust which plans to exhibit them in the Somerset museum after the acquisition.

The main information for this contribution was taken from a Daily Mail article from January 28, 2016.

You may learn more about the history of Yeovil here.

This university project studies the transition from the late Iron Age to the early Roman period in southern England.

A wealth of information on finds made by non-experts and the legal basis is available at the Portable Antiquities Scheme website.

And the fact there is often discord as to who might call himself the finder of a hoard is evidenced by this case from Lymington.