Fifty years ago a hoard of more than 2,500 Celtic coins, representing tribes in Armorica and Gaul and southern Britain, dug up on farmland at Le Câtillon, Grooville, became one of Jersey's most important archaeological finds.
The Le Câtillon treasure was discovered on January 22, 1957, by 17-year-old Peter Langlois as he was removing a boulder that had undercut his plow in a field in Grouville. The hoard included more than 2,500 coins and jewelry, dating to the Late Iron Age (1st century B.C.).
The coins are of Bronze (modern Brittany and Normandy), Belgian and British origin, most of them from the Coriosolite tribe, which was based around Rance in the area of modern Saint-Malo and Dinant. Other Gallic tribes were also represented, including the Osismii, Aulerci Cenomani, Abrincatui, Bayocas and Redons, along with British tribes such as the Durotriges of Dorset. This diversity and geographic range of coins gives us striking evidence of the expansion of trade networks between France and England at this time. The Channel Islands would have been convenient stopping places for ships on the route from Aleta (St. Malo) to Hengisbury (Dorset). This was a widely used trade route by which Mediterranean goods such as wine were brought north in exchange for metals, corn, slaves, and hunting dogs.
Few Iron Age sites have been found in Jersey, but we know that at this time Julius Caesar's armies were advancing northwest through France, leading tribal communities to the coast.
The only safe way to store their wealth was to bury it in a secret place. If the owner died before it was returned, or if the sign marking its location was destroyed, herds such as Le Catillon would remain hidden, only to be discovered.
The coins were minted by hand and would have required a considerable degree of technical and artistic skill. The blank metal disc was placed on a concave obverse (front) die and struck with a convex reverse die. The die tended to be much larger than the blank area, so that often only part of the design is shown on the resulting coin.