One Man Accidently Discovered An Ancient Treasure Trove Worth Millions

When his neighbor lost a hammer in the field, Eric Lawes didn’t think twice about using his metal detector to help locate the missing tool. What Eric didn’t expect was stumbling upon something else altogether, something ancient and worth much more than an old hammer!

Eric Lawes Was Doing Nothing More Than Helping A Neighbor

It was like any other day in the Hoxne village just outside of Suffolk, England, when Eric Lawes’s neighbor misplaced his hammer in the field. Having a metal detector in his possession, Eric decided to help his neighbor.

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Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images
Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images

What he didn’t realize was that he was about to make an incredible yet accidental discovery.

The Metal Detector Went Off Quickly

It didn’t take long for Eric’s metal detector to start going off. At first, he thought he got lucky, finding his neighbor’s hammer quickly. But he didn’t find the missing tool; he stumbled upon something else altogether.

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Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Bending down to see why the metal detector began beeping, Eric couldn’t believe his eyes.

He Filled Two Bags With Silver Spoons And Coins

Feeling around the soil, Eric was shocked when he felt a coin. Soon after the first, he found another and another! He went home to grab grocery bags, and in no time, he had two filled to the brim with silver spoons and coins!

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DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images
DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images

What in the world had he come across?

Professionals Were Called Into Help

Eric was smart. He knew there were people he had to call. First, he called the person who actually owned the plot of land; he found the treasure.

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Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Then, he called the authorities. And, finally, he contacted the Suffolk Archaeological Society because they were bound to have someone who knew how to excavate a site properly.

The Suffolk Archaeological Society Sent A Team Over

Everyone on the other end of Eric’s various phone calls was ecstatic about his news, especially the Suffolk Archaeological Society. The next day, they sent a team, led by Jude Plouvier, over to help Eric excavate the site.

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ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images

They had an idea of what Eric had come across but wanted to be sure.

The Coins Were From 450 AD

The Suffolk Archaeological Society dated the coins as being from 450 AD, a time when invaders were attempting to take over Roman land throughout Europe. But there was one part of that history that they were very interested in.

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Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

During the time of the invasions, people were afraid of losing their possessions.

To Keep Their Valuables Safe, People Buried Everything

During the attacks, the Romano-British people gathered all of their valuables and buried them in various locations. This way, they’d be able to leave their town before invaders got there but could return knowing that their possessions were safe.

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Oxford Archaeology
Oxford Archaeology

The thing is, not everyone was able to return to reclaim their valuables.

The Artifacts Told A Story

Jude Plouvier and the rest of her team were beyond excited about Eric’s find. Not only did he stumble upon artifacts that were probably worth a nice chunk of change, but the history of the artifacts could tell a long-lost story of the nation.

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Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images
Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images

They really couldn’t believe the incredible find!

The Items Kept On Coming

The archaeology team couldn’t believe their luck. They continued to pull artifacts from the site, amazed at what they were witnessing. Getting them back to a lab for thorough examination was going to be a treat!

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YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP via Getty Images
YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP via Getty Images

But something was throwing them for a loop. The artifacts just kept coming; there didn’t seem to be an end.

Over 60 Pounds Worth Of Silver And Gold

The pile just grew and grew. And these artifacts weren’t clay pots and broken figurines. Everything pulled out of the ground was solid silver and gold. In fact, it was 60 pounds of silver and gold.

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

And, to their astonishment, that 60 pounds was about to get even heavier because there was more to unearth!

It Became Known As The Hoxne Hoard

At the end of the day, the Suffolk Archaeological Society excavated a total of 14,865 Roman coins, all of them either gold, silver, or bronze. Not only that, but they also discovered 200 pieces of gold jewelry and silver tableware!

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The collection of artifacts became known as the Hoxne Hoard.

The Hoard Is The Largest In UK History

As of 2021, the Hoxne Hoard is the largest collection of Roman gold and silver of the fourth and fifth centuries to be found in the United Kingdom.

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

It was quite a stroke of luck that this discovery happened all because Eric was trying to find his neighbor’s lost hammer!

Items Were Wrapped In Cloth And Buried In Boxes

The Suffolk Archaeological Society kept excavating the site of the Hoxne Hoard. And one of their findings showed how people actually buried their valuable belongings back in the fourth and fifth centuries.

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GALI TIBBON/AFP via Getty Images
GALI TIBBON/AFP via Getty Images

They found that people would bury things in wooden boxes, swaddled by hay or cloth, and then locked using a silver lock.

A Rare Empress Pepper Pot Was Found

But not all of the artifacts were created equal, some were in a league all of their own. One such item they found was the “Empress” pepper pot, a rare item that dates back to 400 AD.

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

A silver statue gilded in gold, the pepper pot showcases the top half of a woman’s body and was used to mix together pepper and other spices.

A Beautiful And Rare Body Chain

There were numerous pieces of jewelry in the hoard, but one stood out: a gold body chain with amethyst and four garnets. The piece was made using four finely looped gold chains and attached to plaques in both the front and back.

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Amazingly, this wasn’t the rarest fine in the hoard.

A Gold Bracelet With Engraved Detailing

Another rare item that the team of archaeologists found was a solid gold bracelet with an inscription. It was the only gold piece with such detailing on it. In Latin, the bracelet read, “TERE FELIX DOMINA IVLIANE.”

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

In English, the inscription translates to, “Use [this] happily, Lady Juliane.” The team couldn’t have been more thrilled to find an actual name!

Items Were Found With The Inscription “Aurelius Ursicinus”

Interestingly, the group found other pieces in the hoard with the name “Aurelius Ursicinus,” making them think that, perhaps, Aurelius, a man’s name, and Juliane, a woman, were married and were the original owners of the treasures laid of before them.

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CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images
CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images

Unfortunately, there was no telling who the hoard belong to all of those centuries ago.

In Total, There Were 2.2 Pounds Of Gold Jewelry

In total, the team found one body chain, six necklaces, three rings, and nineteen bracelets for a total of 2.2 pounds of gold jewelry.

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

After bringing the pieces to a lab, they found out that everything was around 91.5% gold, about 22 carats, with a bit of copper and silver making up the rest.

98 Silver Items Were Spoons And Ladles

Aside from the gold artifacts, the team excavated numerous silver items. In total, they pulled a little over 100 silver and silver-gilded artifacts from the site! One such object was a leaping tiger figurine that looked to be once affixed to a pot or jug and used as a handle.

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

A majority of the silver-specific items were spoons and ladles; there were 98 of them.

The Hoxne Hoard Is Worth $4.21 Million

As of 2021, the Hoxne Hoard is located in the British Museum in London. Some of the more rare and important items of the collection are on permanent display for the public’s enjoyment.

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

In total, the entire hoard and silver and gold artifacts were priced out at $4.21 million. Eric split the profits with the farmer, Peter Whatling, whose hammer he did eventually find!