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Syngenta coin hoard

Iron Age

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Syngenta/Zeneca coin hoard, from Jealott's Hill

These 58 Iron Age gold coins, issued around 50BC, were found by metal detectorist in 1998, in a recently-ploughed field at Jealott's Hill, Warfield, near Bracknell, Berkshire. The land belonged to Zeneca Agrochemicals, now Syngenta, which gave its name to the hoard.

The coins, known as staters, are over 80% pure gold. 33 of them are Gallo-Belgic E staters, probably imported across the Channel from Gaul. The rest are British QA staters, which were particularly significant to the local region: they formed the basis for the design of coins of the Kings of the Atrebates tribe, whose capital became established at Silchester. Both types of coins found in the hoard were current at the time of Julius Caesar's two invasions of Britain in 55 and 54BC. But they were not a daily currency; they represented power and prestige.

The designs on both types of coin derive from a Greek gold stater of Philip II of Macedon. This had the head of Apollo on the obverse, and a biga or racing chariot drawn by two horses on the reverse. Elements of these are visible on the Syngenta coins. The Gallo-Belgic E staters are blank on one side (the obverse), and have a disjointed horse surrounded by various symbols on the other (the reverse). The British QA obverse is based on the head of Apollo, whilst the reverse displays a triple tailed horse. On some of the British QA coins the head of Apollo appears only faintly, often just as a slight ridge across the coin. This is because the coin makers continued to strike coins from worn obverse dies.

The site was investigated for evidence of interesting archaeological features. In September 1998 the University of Reading carried out a magnetometer survey in the field, but nothing of interest was uncovered. It appears the coins were an isolated find.

The coins – one of the largest hoards of Iron Age gold coins ever found in Berkshire – were declared to be treasure under the Treasure Act (1996). Reading Museum acquired them in 1999 with generous financial support from the Museums and Galleries Commission/Victoria & Albert Purchase Grant Fund and Syngenta Ltd.

Museum object number REDMG : 1999.167

See related topic: Money and Medals

See related topic: Story of Reading Gallery