• The Roman coins
    The Roman coins

Three British mates on a camping trip unearthed a hoard of Roman coins just a few feet from where they had pitched their tent.

The friends, all keen metal detectorists, had travelled to near Pewsey, Wiltshire, when they made the find of more than 150 ancient coins, thought to be worth around £40,000 ($71k).

Finder Robert Abbot, 53, initially thought he had just found a bunch of old metal tent pegs after his machine activated just six feet away from the campsite. But buried further down was a silver Roman Siliqua coin.

He continued to search and his detector went off in a frenzy. Friends, Dave Allen, 59, and Mick Rae, 63, joined in and began to dig up the coins.

By the time the weekend was up, they had uncovered 161 silver coins, all about 1,600 years old and took them home in their washing up bowl.

The coins date from 340 to 602AD and are believed to have been buried as Anglo-Saxon invaders overran Britain as the Roman empire was declining.

The “Pewsey Hoard,” as it has become known, is now going under the hammer with the auction house Noonans in London.

Rob, who runs a computer shop in Essex, said: "Having finished breakfast first, I turned on my machine and having walked around six paces from the tent, I found several tent pegs and just under the surface a late Roman silver siliqua in pristine condition.

"A few moments later beside it, I found another one. Ironically, we had been camping there two weeks previous for a week-long detecting outing.

“What we hadn't realised is we'd actually camped right on top of the area where the coins were found.

“We were so excited and we're looking forward to the auction - but we have no idea how we'll spend the money."

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