Home-improvements and gardening have been on the rise under lockdown in the UK, and, in a few cases, work in the garden has led to archaeological discoveries. One household in the New Forest area in southern England uncovered a Tudor coin hoard while pulling up weeds in their back garden. Deposited around 1540, the hoard contains 63 gold and 1 silver coin, spanning nearly a century from the reigns of Edward IV to Henry VIII. Interestingly, four coins from Henry VIII’s reign feature the initials of his first three wives: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour.
The coins represent a substantial amount of wealth, far more than the average annual wage in Tudor England. It is not yet understood whether coins were regularly added to the hoard as savings over time, or if they were deposited together at the same time, perhaps hidden by a place of worship during the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1540, when the Crown disbanded monasteries, abbeys, nunneries, and friaries, appropriating their property.
This was not the only coin hoard to be found in a British garden in 2020. One house in the Milton Keynes area made a rather more modern find in their back garden: 50 South African solid gold Krugerrand coins, minted in the 1970s during the apartheid era. How they ended up buried in this garden is not known.
Other significant finds made in England and Wales and reported to the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme in 2020 include a Roman furniture-fitting, dating to c.AD 43-200. This copper-alloy object is decorated with an intricate and exceptionally well-preserved face of the primordial god Oceanus, father of the seas and rivers. He is surrounded by marine motifs: seaweed fronds form his face, with a mask-like arrangement around his eyes, serpentine creatures are entwined with his hair, and dolphins appear on each side of his head. Oceanus is depicted infrequently in Roman Britain, mainly in sculptures and mosaics, and no close parallels are known among domestic decorative fittings, making this find a rare one.
In Gloucestershire, a medieval seal matrix of David de Bernham, Bishop of St Andrews (r. 1239-1253), was discovered. Seal matrices of high-status figures such as the bishop are normally made of copper-alloy or silver. This matrix, however, was created from a lead-alloy, and the production is comparatively low-quality, suggesting that the object could be a medieval forgery for authenticating copied documents.