Record Details

NHER Number:5853
Type of record:Monument
Name:The 'Thetford Treasure' and Roman temple, Fison Way

Summary

Fison Way is the location where the famous ‘Thetford Treasure’ was discovered in 1979. This fantastic hoard consisted of gold finger rings, gold bracelets, gold earrings, gold pendants and necklaces, beads, silver strainers, numerous silver spoons and a shale jewellery box. These items were of Roman origin and dated to the 4th century. Subsequent aerial photography identified a large rectangular enclosure, and the form of the enclosure suggested a Romano-British temple was situated here. Excavations of the temple in 1980-82 discovered it had three phases of activity during the Iron Age/Roman period. This work also recorded the presence of an Iron Age mint and several Bronze Age cremations here. It has been suggested that the temple was dedicated to the god Faunus and that some of the hoard (such as the spoons) related to his worship. However, the fine gold jewellery items likely belonged to a rich individual or guild, as they are not appropriate votive items for a temple. One theory is that these items were the stock of a wealthy jeweller who buried his goods in a time of crisis. Whatever the case, this area has continued to produce a large quantity of Roman metalwork (brooches, coins etc.), especially during the recent construction of the Thetford Bypass.

Images

  • A Roman military prick spur excavated at Fison Way, Thetford.  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology. NWHCM 1995.6.630:A

Documents/files/web pages

Location

Grid Reference:TL 8665 8498
Map Sheet:TL88SE
Parish:THETFORD, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

Iron Age/Roman ?temple

Early 1960s. Found on ploughed surface and by digging.
A mass of Roman tile, building material and pottery was found.
A. Gregory (NAU), 4 August 1980.

1966. Found while digging trench for water main.
Roman pottery sherds.

1978. Found under tree in south-east field boundary.
Roman coins and terracotta ushabti.

1979. Seen after topsoil stripping.
Area of Roman pits, ditches and foundations.
Metal detector finds of coin hoards, coins and metalwork including an Early Saxon brooch.

1979. 'Thetford Treasure' Roman hoard found by metal detecting.
This comprised 81 objects:
1 gold belt buckle
22 gold finger rings
4 gold bracelets, 2 a matching pair
2 gold club-of-Hercules pendants (or ear-rings)
2 gold-mounted pendants, one containing a cameo, the other an engraved gem
1 unmounted gem
5 gold necklaces and 2 pairs of gold clasps
1 gold amulet designed as a pendant
4 beads, 3 of glass, 1 of emerald
3 silver strainers
33 silver spoons (S11).
1 shale jewellery box and lid.
The jewellery is almost entirely brand new, and at least two objects remain unfinished. These facts, combined with the numerous stylistic traits that unite the group as a whole, indicate that this collection of artefacts is therefore a jeweller's or merchant's stock-in-trade. The spoons also appear to comprise a homogenous group from a simple workshop, and all except two are inscribed, twelve of them referring directly to the God Faunus. These spoons, along with the strainers, may have been used to celebrate a ritual associated with the cult of Faunus.
On typological grounds these objects can all be dated to the second half of the 4th century AD, and (S1) argues that they were manufactured and buried in the 380s or early 390s.
Information from (S1).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 19 August 2008.

16 June 1980. SAU and NAU air photography.
Revealed cropmarks of two concentric rectangular enclosures orientated approximately east-west. The larger outer enclosure measures 200m east-west and 180m north-south with an entrance located centrally in the east end. The smaller enclosure measures 150m by 105m and has two possible entrances, one located central to the north side and another central to the eastern end.
See (S2).
D. Edwards (NAU), 24 June 1980.

1980-1982. Excavation.
This work revealed only limited evidence for pre-Iron Age activity. The earliest find was a Middle Palaeolithic handaxe (Mousterian of Acheulian Tradition). This object is noted in (S12) and (S13).

Mesolithic activity was represented by two microliths. It is possible that at least some of the 150+ blades recovered were also associated with Mesolithic activity, although they are as likely to be of Early Neolithic date. The low frequency of blades in the assemblage suggests that early activity was limited. The majority of the worked flints recovered appear to be of later Neolithic or Bronze Age date.

The earliest structural remains recorded during the excavation date from the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age and comprise a single small pit containing pottery and flint-working debris located in the south-eastern corner of the site. No contemporary features were found, but in the same area were two urned cremations of Middle to Late Bronze Age date and two unurned cremations which are likely to be contemporary. Another urned cremation was found in the north-western part of the site, and was of indeterminate Bronze Age date.

The principal use of this site dates from the Iron Age and early Roman period. This can be sub-divided into three main phases of activity as follows:
Phase I (dates from perhaps as early as the 4th century BC to sometime in the 1st century AD):
The function of the site during this period is unclear. There is no evidence for domestic activity, and the site is not dominated by a single structure during this phase. Features from this phase of activity include two pit groups, at least one ring ditch, a possible building and several enclosures, one of which may have had a funerary purpose. A large rectangular pit was found to contain metallurgical debris including fragments of clay moulds and crucibles, indicating the manufacture of decorated copper alloy objects here during this period.
Phase II (probably dates from around AD 40-50):
The major development during this phase was the construction of a large, roughly square enclosure which appears to have been constructed primarily to contain a single circular building. To the north-west are a series of enclosures which are contemporary with and just outside the main square enclosure. The ditch of one of these contained metalworking debris which indicated that the manufacture of decorated copper alloy objects and silver coins was going on side by side. The discovery of pellet moulds from this ditch means that this can be identified as the site of an Iron Age-style mint, indicating that the production of Icenian silver coinage continued into the client kingdoms. All of the other Phase II enclosures appear to have a very different function. They (and some of the ring ditches) almost all contain graves, although no human remains were preserved. About sixty graves were recorded, having varied orientation but often in groups of similar alignment and in enclosures of varying sizes. To the south of the main enclosure is another large rectilinear enclosure defined by ditches and having an entrance to the east. Similarly to the main enclosure, this southern enclosure is also devoid of burials, and seems to have contained only a single contemporary feature, a large hollow containing soot and pot boilers. This area has been interpreted by the author as a steam-bath, although this interpretation is not certain. It is likely that this second large enclosure was closely related in function to the main enclosure and that the activities within it served the main enclosure in some way.
Phase III (dates from around AD 50 to the middle of the AD 60s):
This phase saw a massive expansion of the main enclosure established during Phase II, and the sweeping away of many of the extra-mural features. The new enclosure contained a great deal of open space which would have been a stark contrast to the massed fences, up to nine deep, filling the space between the new inner and outer ditches. The new enclosure contained not one but five circular structures. A space of some 80m separates the area of buildings from the entrance into the enclosure, towards which all five buildings face. A corridor lined with vertical timbers led from the eastern entrance to the enclosure to a massive gateway which formed the entrance through the bank into the central court, with the buildings beyond. Suddenly, after an apparently short life, the use of this enclosure and buildings came to an end and the structures were dismantled.
There is a clear hiatus in datable finds between the early Roman associated with Phases II and III and material of the 3rd and 4th centuries associated with the latest phase of activity on this site. Late Roman features include two possible post-built buildings, gullies and pits. This phase of activity provides the context for the deposition of the Thetford Treasure.

Information from (S3). All finds from this excavation are now held by the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 1995.60).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 15 August 2008. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 25 July 2013.

1983. Metal detecting.
Roman ring and Iron Age harness.

1988. Found with metal detector on bypass line.
Roman coins and pottery, flint flake.

1989. Metal detecting.
Roman brooch.

(S4) considers this to be a Gnostic assemblage.
D. Gurney (NLA) 8 January 2004.

November 2007. Geophysical survey.
A number of smaller features known from excavation were not clearly visible on the geophysical survey and this could be due to the depth of backfill from earlier excavations. The inner ditches of Fison Way were visible as a strong anomaly with the outer ditch less visible. A number of isolated positive anomalies are interpreted as possible pit-type features. Many of the linear and curvilinear anomalies detected by the geophysical survey are shown on the plan of excavated features and could possibly relate to features such as ditches, earthworks or gullies associated with human occupation of the site but some could also be part of modern field drainage systems.
See (S6) for further details.
S. Howard (NLA), 10 March 2010.

1 September 2009.
Site Scheduled.
See (S5)
A. Cattermole (NLA), 2 September 2009.

October 2010. Norfolk NMP.
Study of the available aerial photographs (S2), (S7-S8) revealed, in a similar way to the geophysical survey, that the inner ditches of Fison Way were clearly visible, and the outer ditch less so. Many of the smaller features known from excavation were not visible, except for the phase Ib enclosure (S3) visible in the northwest corner, centred on TL 8663 8509, of Late Iron Age-Roman date.
The site was extended to the east to incorporate a further rectangular enclosure (S7-S8), centred on TL 8689 8501, which measures 66m by 55m. This enclosure had been recognised prior to excavation, but was not subject to excavation.
E. Bales (NMP), 18 Oct 2010.

January - May 2010. Geophysical survey.
The survey detected the ditched annex enclosure located to the west of the main temple complex originally identified rom aerial photographs.
See (S10).
S. Howard (HES), 28 July 2011.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • LITHIC WORKING SITE? (Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age - 3000 BC to 1501 BC)
  • PIT (Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age - 3000 BC to 1501 BC)
  • CREMATION (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • PIT (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Beaker - 2300 BC to 1700 BC)
  • CINERARY URN (Middle Bronze Age to Late Bronze Age - 1600 BC to 701 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • BUILDING (Middle Iron Age to Roman - 399 BC? to 65 AD?)
  • DITCH (Middle Iron Age to Roman - 399 BC? to 65 AD?)
  • ENCLOSURE (Middle Iron Age to Roman - 399 BC? to 65 AD?)
  • GULLY (Middle Iron Age to Roman - 399 BC? to 65 AD?)
  • HEARTH (Middle Iron Age to Late Iron Age - 399 BC? to 40 AD?)
  • METAL WORKING SITE (Middle Iron Age to Roman - 399 BC? to 65 AD?)
  • MORTUARY ENCLOSURE (Middle Iron Age to Late Iron Age - 399 BC? to 40 AD?)
  • PIT (Middle Iron Age to Late Iron Age - 399 BC? to 40 AD?)
  • PIT CLUSTER (Middle Iron Age to Late Iron Age - 399 BC? to 40 AD?)
  • POST HOLE (Middle Iron Age to Roman - 399 BC? to 65 AD?)
  • RECTANGULAR ENCLOSURE (Middle Iron Age to Roman - 399 BC? to 65 AD?)
  • RING DITCH (Middle Iron Age to Late Iron Age - 399 BC? to 40 AD?)
  • TEMPLE (Middle Iron Age to Roman - 399 BC? to 65 AD?)
  • TRACKWAY (Middle Iron Age to Late Iron Age - 399 BC? to 40 AD?)
  • BUILDING? (Late Iron Age to Roman - 40 AD? to 65 AD?)
  • CAUSEWAY (Late Iron Age to Roman - 40 AD? to 65 AD?)
  • GRAVE? (Late Iron Age to Roman - 40 AD? to 65 AD?)
  • GULLY (Late Iron Age to Roman - 40 AD? to 65 AD?)
  • INHUMATION CEMETERY? (Late Iron Age to Roman - 40 AD? to 65 AD?)
  • MINT (Late Iron Age to Roman - 40 AD? to 65 AD?)
  • POST BUILT STRUCTURE (Late Iron Age to Roman - 40 AD? to 65 AD?)
  • SQUARE ENCLOSURE (Late Iron Age to Roman - 40 AD? to 65 AD?)
  • FINDSPOT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • RECTANGULAR ENCLOSURE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • HANDAXE (Middle Palaeolithic - 150000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • BLADE (Early Mesolithic to Early Neolithic - 10000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • MICROLITH (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • ARROWHEAD? (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • BORER (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • CORE (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • DEBITAGE (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • DENTICULATE (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • FABRICATOR (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • FLAKE (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • HAMMERSTONE (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • KNIFE (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • POLISHED AXEHEAD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • POT (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • POT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • RETOUCHED FLAKE (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • THUMB NAIL SCRAPER (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • TRANSVERSE ARROWHEAD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • TRIANGULAR ARROWHEAD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • LEVALLOIS CORE (Late Neolithic - 3000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • LEVALLOIS FLAKE (Late Neolithic - 3000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • AWL (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • PALSTAVE (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • POT (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • POT (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • POT (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • POT (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • BARBED AND TANGED ARROWHEAD (Beaker - 2300 BC to 1700 BC)
  • POT (Beaker - 2300 BC to 1700 BC)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • BROOCH (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • BROOCH (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • COIN (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • COIN (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • COIN (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • COIN (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • COIN MOULD (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • CRUCIBLE (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • HARNESS (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • LOOMWEIGHT (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • METAL WORKING DEBRIS (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • METAL WORKING DEBRIS (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • METAL WORKING DEBRIS (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • MIRROR (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • MOLLUSCA REMAINS (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • PLANT REMAINS (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • POT BOILER (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • SLING SHOT (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • STRAP FITTING (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • VESSEL (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • METAL WORKING DEBRIS (Middle Iron Age to Roman - 399 BC? to 59 AD?)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BEAD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BOX (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BRACELET (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BROOCH (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BROOCH (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • CEREMONIAL OBJECT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • CHISEL (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • COIN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • COIN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • COIN HOARD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • DISC (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • DRESS COMPONENT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • EAR RING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FERRULE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FIGURINE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FIGURINE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FINGER RING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FINGER RING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FINGER RING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FLUE TILE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FURNITURE FITTING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • GEMSTONE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • HARNESS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • INSCRIBED OBJECT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • KNIFE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • METAL WORKING DEBRIS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • NAIL (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • NAIL (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • NECKLACE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PENDANT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PIN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PLAQUE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • QUERN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • RAZOR (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • RELIGION OR RITUAL (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • RING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • RING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • SPOON (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • SPUR (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • STEELYARD WEIGHT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • STRAINER (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • STRAP FITTING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • STRAP FITTING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • STUD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • TILE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • TOILET ARTICLE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • VESSEL (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PLANT REMAINS (Roman - 220 AD to 380 AD) + Sci.Date
  • HOARD (Roman - 380 AD? to 395 AD?)
  • BROOCH (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • COIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SCABBARD (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HARNESS (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • SHINE
  • Scheduled Monument

Sources and further reading

---Photograph: XV1 to XX111.
---Article in Serial: 1981. Current Archaeology. No 81.
---Article in Monograph: Gregory, T. 1986. Enclosures of 'Thornham' Type in Norfolk. Excavations at Thornham, Warham, Wighton and Caistor St. Edmund, Norfolk. Gregory, T. and Gurney, D.. EAA No 30 pp 32-35.
---Archive: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2009. Coming face to face with our rich heritage. 3 October.
---Newspaper Article: The Times. 1981. Hoard may go to the British Museum.. February 4.
---Article in Serial: 1981. Roman gold found to be treasure trove.. 4 February.
---Unpublished Document: Jones, C. 2011. Archaeological trial trench evaluation of land north of Thetford, Norfolk. Northamptonshire Archaeology Report No. 11/25..
---Audio: BBC Radio 4. 2011. In Living Memory.. 10 August.
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Roman. Thetford.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Fiche: Exists.
---Article in Serial: Garrow, D. 2007. Placing Pits: Landscape Occupation and Depositional Practice During the Neolithic in East Anglia. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. Vol 73 pp 1-24.
<S1>Publication: Johns, C. and Potter, T.. 1983. The Thetford Treasure. Roman Jewellery and Silver.
<S2>Aerial Photograph: TL 8685A-AY.
<S3>Monograph: Gregory, A.. 1991. Excavations in Thetford, Fison Way.. East Anglian Archaeology. Vol.53, parts 1-2.
<S4>Publication: Perring, D.. 2003. Britannia. XXXIV. p 119.
<S5>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2009. Key temple site to receive government protection.. 11 September.
<S6>Unpublished Document: Woodhouse, H.. 2007. L-P Archaeology Report No.LP0460E. Geophysical survey of land north of Thetford..
<S7>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1955. RAF 82/1307 0136-7 04-OCT-1955 (NMR).
<S8>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D. NLA. 1981. NHER TL 8685P-U,V-Z, AF-P, AY (NLA 109/AQT1-8, 14-22) 30-JUN-1981.
<S9>Vertical Aerial Photograph: NMR. 1980. NMR TL8685/189-91 SFU 1615501-3 30-MAY-1980.
<S10>Unpublished Document: Wolframm-Murray, Y.. 2010. Northamptonshire Archaeology Report No. 10/159. Archaeological fieldwalking, metal detecting and geophysical surveys of land at the north of Thetford, Norfolk.. October.
<S11>Illustration: Unknown. 1979. Drawing of a Roman silver spoon.. Film. 1:1.
<S12>Unpublished Document: Wessex Archaeology. 1996. The English Rivers Palaeolithic Project. Regions 9 (Great Ouse) and 12 (Yorkshire and the Lincolnshire Wolds). LLO-2, No. 13.
<S13>Website: TERPS online database. Site 22684.

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55878Parent of: Ditches and possible pits of unknown date (Monument)

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