During the last week of the Trust’s excavation at the Williams & Griffin store in the High Street at Colchester, we discovered buried treasure… It was actually uncovered by Trust archaeologist Adam Wightman, who was the site supervisor. As he excavated the group of small finds, they were revealed to represent a collection of fine gold and silver Roman jewellery. The jewellery had been buried for safekeeping in a small pit dug in the floor of a house during the early stages of the Boudican Revolt in AD 61. Colchester is famous for its remarkable archaeology, but this treasure is a really special discovery – it represents the first Roman hoard of precious metals ever found in Colchester town centre. It is very exciting for us, as we only find precious metals very rarely.
The treasure is archaeologically significant because it was buried under the Boudican destruction debris, and it tells a powerful story. The jewellery was buried under the floor of a house which was subsequently burnt to the ground, along with the rest of the town, and the jewellery was never recovered – until now. Burnt foodstuffs lay scattered on the floor, with a collapsed wooden shelf. The remarkable find of human bones which we uncovered recently on the site had been lying near the buried treasure, in the debris of destroyed buildings. Two of the bones show evidence of injuries which suggest that fighting and a violent death took place here during the Revolt. The Revolt was when the native Britons rebelled against the Roman occupation of Britain; they burned down the Roman towns of Colchester, London and St Albans and massacred their inhabitants. However, the Roman army suppressed the revolt and Britain remained part of the Roman empire.
Our excavation at the Williams & Griffin store has just finished. Much analysis of the finds and results remains to be done, so this is an early provisional interpretation.
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