A precious hoard of Roman and Late Iron Age coins has been discovered in a British cave where they have lain undisturbed for more than 2,000 years.
The treasure trove was initially unearthed by a member of the public, who stumbled across four coins in the cavern in Dovedale in the Peak District, sparking a full-scale excavation of the site.
Experts say the find is highly unusual as it is the first time coins from these two separate civilisations have been buried together.
And the setting itself adds to the mystery surrounding the discovery, as while Roman coins have often been found in fields, this is understood to be the first time they have been unearthed in a cave.
Archaeologists discovered 26 coins, including three Roman coins which pre-date the invasion of Britain in AD 43, and 20 other gold and silver pieces which are Late Iron Age and thought to belong to the Corieltavi tribe.
National Trust archaeologist Rachael Hall said whoever owned the cache, which has been declared as “treasure” by the authorities, was probably a wealthy and influential figure.
She said: “The coins would suggest a serious amount of wealth and power of the individual who owned them.
“The situation of the cave can’t be ignored either. Could it have been a sacred place to the Late Iron Age peoples that was taboo to enter in everyday life, making it a safe place that would ensure that person’s valuables were protected?”
The largest hoard of Iron Age gold and silver coins ever found in Britain was discovered by an amateur archaeologist in 2000 near Hallaton in south-east Leicestershire.
More than 5,000 coins and, jewellery and a silver-gilt Roman parade helmet were among the treasures discovered during that excavation.
The British Museum’s curator of Iron Age and Roman coins, Ian Leins, said that while this latest find at Reynard’s Cave and Kitchen does not quite match the discovery at Hallaton, it is “exciting”.
The coins have been cleaned by conservation specialists at the British Museum and University College London and will go on permanent display at Buxton Museum later this year.