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Metal detectorist uncovers suspected Roman child coffin

Published: November 4, 2013 at 7:50 am
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Archaeologists are preparing to open a coffin believed to date from the third century AD.


Found by metal detectorist Chris Wright in a field close to the Leicestershire/Warwickshire border, the lead coffin is thought to contain the remains of a child.

Wright discovered the coffin while searching for artefacts with Digging Up The Past, a group that arranges metal detecting rallies. He stumbled across the coffin while searching for historical ‘casual loss items’ such as coins and brooches.

Archaeology Warwickshire has been appointed to recover the coffin and assess its contents.

At its base, an Archaeology Warwickshire team inserted an endoscope through a gap in the lid to reveal that the coffin is almost entirely full of clay silt.

Meticulous cleaning of the coffin lining has revealed it was panel-beaten from a single sheet of lead marked out with a sharp implement, and the joins at the ends were sealed with molten lead.

Hammer marks are still visible around the folded lid.

Archeologists plan to open the excavated coffin this week.

Wright told historyextra: “I was looking for hammered coins when I got a strong signal from my machine which indicated a large, deep object.

“99 per cent of the time such signals turn out to be big chunks of iron, broken off agricultural equipment.

“I followed this signal as I had just picked up a Roman coin and thought, given the history to the area and my last Roman coin find, there was a tiny chance I could have stumbled across a hoard.

“Digging down I joked with my detecting partner, Steve Waterall, about what it could be, expecting the usual rubbish.

“When we uncovered a glimpse of what looked like a slab of stone we were totally stumped.

“We decided to locate an edge of the object and carefully excavate around until we had exposed enough of the surface to identify what we had.

“The moment we realised we had potentially located a grave we stopped digging, and the club leader immediately reported the find to the police and archaeologists, who have handled matters since.

"We were aware the field was close the boundary of a Roman settlement and a Roman road. Such sites can be productive, especially in terms of coins, as the Romans must have had very shallow pockets!

“Usually, however, the finds are in very poor condition due to being turned over by the plough or eroded by chemicals used in fertilisers.

“It’s a nice feeling to pick something out of the ground that hasn’t been held by another person for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.”

Archaeology Warwickshire business manager, Stuart Palmer, said: “We are delighted to be able to help with this potentially extremely important find.


“It has been taken to our offices in Warwick where we can examine it under laboratory conditions to see what it can tell us about aspects of Roman period life, health and of course death.”


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