Diss detectorist unearths golden find of a lifetime
A Diss metal detectorist, who unearthed a gold 24-carat piece of our country’s history, feels that the best is yet
to come after his stunning discovery.
Robert Turrell, 38, who has lived in the town all his life, was out metal detecting a field near the town in January when he received a strong signal while walking back across the field at the end of the day.
“I woke up that morning with electricity buzzing through me,” he said.
“For some reason, I was on cloud nine before I even started, and I had a strong sense that it was going to be a special day.”
“I was just finishing up metal detecting later that afternoon when I walked back across the field and got a strong signal close to a hedge near the road beside the field.
“My friend Jono had already left, and I was about to head home. It was sheer luck.
“I dug around 10 inches down and then turned over a clod of earth and there it was, this perfect gold coin.
“I just sat down shaking and just looked at it for about 45 minutes. I did a little gold dance too, of course.
“Jono came back and I let him detect the area around the hole just in case there was more than one there.
“It was a gold Roman aureus – 7.7 grams of almost buttery, 24-carat gold dating to around 43AD.”
The coin was in excellent condition, and has been dated to 43AD – the same year Roman Emperor Claudius launched his invasion of Britain.
Made in the region of France now known as Lyon, the coin depicts Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus, who was Emperor Claudius’ father and a renowned Roman military leader and politician.
The reverse side features Drusus on horseback above a triumphal arch, with the words ‘De Germanis’, which is a celebration of his subjugation of the Germanic tribes.
“As an act of reverence, emperors in the early years of their reign may have coins struck depicting those they wish to pay tribute to,” said Mr Turrell, who has been metal detecting for 10 years.
“There are light scratches on the surface of the coin, which may well have been made when the soil was being moved to make the road beside the field.
“I think of this as the start of the story, which may sound strange. I’ve found the odd bit of gold before, along with brooches, spear heads and other items, but this is the best one so far.
“Somehow though, I feel like it’s leading to something even bigger. The money it gets at auction is expected to be £4,000 to £5,000 and that will be split with the landowner.
“I’ll use my share to buy a new metal detector, and hopefully that will help me with the next big find. Maybe it will be a hoard or a burial, but I feel like one day I will have something on display in Norwich Museum.”
Mr Turrell, who runs beekeping company The Barefoot Beeman, chose Mayfair auction house Noonan’s to sell the coin, and lot, numbered 1266, will go under the hammer on July 18.
It will form part of the British Iron Age Coins, Ancient Coins and Antiquities sale starting at 10am.
“I chose Noonan’s as a friend of mine has used them before and they are very professional and provide a great service,” said Mr Turrell.
The lot description describes the coin as having, “a scattering of light marks”, adding: “Otherwise very fine, very rare, and particularly so with a secure British find-spot.”
“It’s always essential that you get permission from landowners before going detecting,” added Mr Turrell.
“Finds are such an important part of our history and need to be carefully documented through the correct channels and in a legal way.
“I am fortunate to have been able to detect in many places from Harling to East Harling and in between and it all starts with a face to face chat with the landowner.
“We are very blessed to have so much history in the ground around Diss and I’m delighted to have been able to find something as significant as that coin, which had probably only been in Britain six months or a year.
“You always wonder about the story of how it was lost and came to be where it was. Mostly though, it’s an amazing feeling to hold something which hasn’t been held in someone’s hands for 2,000 years.”