Buckinghamshire ancient coin hoard find 'unprecedented'
More than 5,000 ancient coins found in a Buckinghamshire field are an "unprecedented" find, the county's keeper of archaeology has said.
A member of the Weekend Wanderers Metal Detecting Club discovered the 11th Century coins buried in a field near Aylesbury four days before Christmas.
Brett Thorn from Bucks County Museum said it was the largest hoard of Saxon coins ever found in the county and the second largest in the UK.
"It just doesn't happen," he said.
Paul Coleman, from Southampton, was taking part in a dig in the Padbury area on 21 December when he found the coins from the late Anglo Saxon, early Norman period, depicting the heads of kings Ethelred the Unready and Canute.
"I saw one shiny disk," he told BBC News.
"It was reflecting in the sky and I immediately knew it was a coin, you just know. So I bent down to pick the coin up and as I could focus down in the hole I could see lots of circular shapes behind it."
Club spokesman Peter Welch said the coins, which were buried in a lead bucket, had "looked almost uncirculated, like they were straight from a mint".
Mr Thorn said the find was "massive" and the largest find of Saxon coins since 1840 when about 7,000 were unearthed in Cuerdale, near Preston in Lancashire.
"I was absolutely astounded," he said.
"To give an idea of scale, people normally find between five and 20 [Saxon] coins.
"We have about 4,000 Roman coins in the Bucks County Museum and only 30 Saxon ones, so it is very significant both nationally and for the county, it is just unprecedented."
The coins, which feature at least two kings, will be cleaned and examined by the British Museum to establish which mint they came from.
"Until they are cleaned and dated [to find the oldest] we can't begin to find out why they were collected or why they were carefully wrapped and very definitely hidden," said Mr Thorn.
A coroner must rule if they are "treasure" under the Treasure Act.
Mr Thorn could not comment on their estimated value but said if the museum decided, in conjunction with the British Museum, to acquire them "it would be a major fundraising effort".
The largest UK hoard of Anglo Saxon treasure was about 1,600 items, including helmet parts and processional crosses.
It was found in a Staffordshire field in July 2009 and valued at £3.285m.