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Last Updated:  Monday, 7 April, 2003, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Iron Age coin hoard uncovered
Some of the coins
The coins were uncovered by volunteers walking in a field
The largest hoard of Iron Age gold and silver coins ever found in the UK has been uncovered by a group of amateur archaeologists.

The find of more than 3,000 coins was made in a field in east Leicestershire.

Dating back 2,000 years, they are one of the first examples of Iron Age coin hoards to be seen in the country.

A group of local people who had joined an archaeological project run by Leicestershire County Council found a handful of coins while out walking in 2000.

Group member Ken Wallace returned with a metal detector and found hundreds of the coins, which date to between 1AD and 40AD.

He said: "They weren't in a pot or in a bag, they were in little pits in the clay, about the size of a clenched fist.

"There were about 13 or 15 of these little deposits and it is unique."

Ken Wallace
Ken Wallace found most of the coins
A professional excavation turned up the remainder of the hoard earlier in 2003.

The same dig also uncovered a silver decorated Roman cavalry helmet, the only one ever found in England.

Evidence points to the helmet being buried before the Roman Conquest - raising the possibility that a Leicestershire man may have travelled to the Roman Empire to serve in the cavalry before Britain was conquered by Rome.

The coins were mostly made by the local Iron Age tribe, the Corielvatu.

Archaeologists believe they were probably offerings at a religious ceremony.

The British Museum part-funded the excavations and a spokesman described it as a find of "international significance".

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