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Treasure claim after Roman coins found near Manchester
Roman coins
One of the coins bears the head of Emperor Augustus

An archaeologist says his latest find of buried treasure is proof of a previously unknown Roman encampment on the outskirts of Manchester.

James Balme has been searching the area around Warburton for over a decade to find evidence of its Roman past.

In 2006, he discovered a Roman silver snake bracelet and has now unearthed a number of rare Roman silver coins.

James believes the coins are part of a bigger hoard buried nearby and has notified the British Museum.


James Balme first became fascinated by archaeology as a boy, learning his craft with the South Trafford Archaeology group.

But it wasn't until 2006 that he made his first major find; a Roman silver snake bracelet lying on the surface of a farmer's field.

Roman soldiers
The Roman fort of Mamucium wasn't established until 78 AD

Under the Treasure Act 1996, the bracelet was declared National Treasure - formerly treasure trove - and is now in the hands of the Manchester Museum.

But, using his metal detector, James claims to have made his second discovery of buried treasure: eight Roman silver Republican Denarius coins, dated between 252 BC and 2 BC.

He said they were not only rare but also highly significant as their presence indicated that Roman legionaries must have been based in the area of what is now the village of Warburton.

"Most Roman coins found are from the 1st or 2nd centuries AD but these are older Republican coins and come from a time before the Roman Empire," he said.


How they came to be in a field near Warburton is another mystery.

James believes the coins were used to pay Roman soldiers who were pushing north with their military campaign and were hidden but never collected.

James Balme
There is clearly still an untold Roman mystery here that I am uncovering slowly year by year.
James Balme, archaeologist

"I think they reached the River Bollin and buried the coins because of the local Brigantes [a Celtic tribe who controlled Northern England] but, for some reason, never came back for them."

"It's very exciting because they're extremely rare," he said.

"And when you go back to the same site and keep finding more coins, you know are onto something big."

David Shotter, a former professor of Roman history and expert in Roman coins, agreed the find was unusual.

"Hoards of denarii are not uncommon, but what is interesting is that this discovery indicates a Roman site that we haven't yet located."

And although it was impossible to establish an exact date of loss, he suggested that they were probably buried between 70 and 130 AD.

Under the law, a discovery of six or more such coins from one site is classed officially as a Roman hoard.

James said he had now reported his find under the Portable Antiquities Scheme to be considered as another case of National Treasure.

Adding: "It would be nice to find the rest of the hoard. But the overall aim is to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Roman soldiers were based in the village.

"There is clearly still an untold Roman mystery here that I am uncovering slowly year by year."

When Manchester was Mamucium
08 Jun 09 |  History
Roman altar found in city
10 Apr 08 |  England


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