A British man began his hobby of scanning the ground with a metal detector seven years ago, but it was only recently that he found something so valuable it had him sleeping in his car to guard it.
Laurence Egerton uncovered 22,000 copper-alloy Roman coins dating between 260 and 348 A.D.
“They just spilled out all over the field,” he told the U.K. Independent. “It was an exciting moment. I had found one or two Roman coins before but never so many together.”
When Egerton made the discovery in November 2013 and called upon archaeologists for an official excavation, he told the Daily Telegraph he slept in his car for three days when crews went home to make sure no one messed with what is now being called the Seaton Down Hoard.
“Every night the archaeologists packed up and left, and I couldn’t go home and sleep thinking there was something of such significance sitting there in a hole in the ground in a field in the middle of nowhere,” Egerton told the newspaper. “It was November and it was very cold. I had three or four fleeces on and a quilt. And I’m 6’3” so I’m not really built for sleeping in cars.”
Watch this video from the Daily Telegraph that shows Egerton unearthing some of the coins:
The coins went on display last week at the British Museum.
In its announcement, the museum credited the 51-year-old and other experts with “prompt and responsible action [that] ensured the coins were properly excavated and allowed for the later recording of the hoard.” According to the museum, the find represents the largest hoard found in the country from the 4th century.
“The scale of the hoard is remarkable,” the museum stated in its. “This is one of the largest hoards ever found within the whole Roman Empire. Despite the number of coins found, the financial value would not have been great, amounting to approximately four gold coins (solidi): this sum of money would possibly have provided a soldier’s food or a worker’s salary for two years.”