THE JERSEY HOARD - LE CATILLON II : Book review

A BOOK about that well-publicised hoard of ancient treasure, found in a field in Grouville, has been written by the two metal detectorists who discovered it – Richard Miles and Reg Mead. The book was launched recently at a reception hosted by the Jersey Heritage Trust at La Hougue Bie.

For the benefit of readers who may not live in Jersey or have not yet heard the news, the two detectorists discovered a hoard of Iron Age coins and gold ornaments, inestimable in value both monetarily and even more so archaeologically. It had been the largest hoard of Iron Age coins ever discovered.

Many of the coins were from the Celtic Gaulish tribe of Coriosolites, who lived in eastern Brittany, in the area of the present-day town of Saint-Malo.  Apart from the coins were also golden ornaments and torques. The wealth represented by this treasure was far more than could have been possessed by a single person – however rich. It was the wealth of the tribe – in modern terms, it was rather as if a Sovereign national bank had buried all its reserves in a field.

Why? Well, no-one can tell, but a reasonable theory is that they were transported to Jersey at the time that Julius Caesar and his legions were busy dividing Gaul into three parts in the 1st Century BC and the hoard was taken to somewhere deemed to be out of harm’s way. Why was it not ever collected? Maybe those who buried it later fell in battle against the Romans and with their deaths the details of the location of the secret hoard also died.

However, this little book is about more than archaeology, it is the tale of how the hoard was discovered by the two friends, Richard and Reg, following up an old story – around 50 years old – of how coins had been found in the fields. Some of these were later exchanged by the farmer’s children with their school-friends for comics.

The toil in trying to find this treasure in what, in Jersey terms, was a very large field, the excitement as it was finally discovered and the realisation of quite how important was the discovery, is well told by the writers and by the team who unearthed it, retrieved it and conserved it.

The book, like the excavation and subsequent conservation and exhibition of its contents, has been a team effort.

A good story, well told – and what is even more exciting, is that there is still treasure to be extracted from the hard, coagulated earth that cocoons it and from which the contents of the hoard are being slowly prised with infinite care and caution. So the story will continue ….

*The book price (£7.95) includes a £1 donation to Jersey Heritage. It is published by Barnes Publishing Ltd: e-mail ian@barnespublishing.com