More than 300 rare Iron Age potins (an early version of coins) were discovered by archaeologists who were working in West London on the HS2 rail line in Hillingdon, England. In fact, they weren’t even expecting to find the hoard as a rainstorm caused the coins to be revealed in the ground.
The coins, which have been named the “Hillingdon Hoard”, date back 2,170 years when the influence of the Romans was beginning to be felt across Britain and Europe (because of trades with the Roman Empire), and just prior to them traveling over to Britain. The word “potin” is in reference to the base metal silver-like alloy that is present in the coins. They were made of copper, tin, and lead.
The potins have very interesting features as they were based on coins that originally came from Marseille, France, approximately 2,175 years ago. On one side of the coin there is a head of the Roman messenger God Apollo, while the other side has a charging bull.
It is believed that the potins were used to indicate a property’s boundary or perhaps even as an offering to the Gods that were placed close to a sacred spring or in a clearing of woods. Additionally, the person who owned them could have purposely buried them to use in an emergency, or even hide them from the Romans.
There have been previous discoveries of Late Iron Age potins; however, the “Hillingdon Hoard” is by far the largest amount ever discovered at one time. Emma Tetlow, who is the Historic Environment Lead for contractor Skanska Costain, described the significance of this discovery, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime find and allows us to expand our knowledge of what life could have been like in Hillingdon many centuries ago.”
While this is definitely a huge discovery, it isn’t the oldest thing that has been found by HS2 in the London area. They had previously found stone tools and artifacts dating back about 11,000 years.
As for what will happen to the hoard, a coroner will examine the coins and decide whether or not they should be considered a “treasure”. If it is considered a treasure, the coroner will decide how valuable it is and if a museum can purchase it. Since the coins were discovered on private land, the HS2 has no claims over it.
Pictures of the coins can be seen here.