A HOARD of Roman coins, which are more than 1,700 years old, found in a field on the outskirts of Salisbury are deemed to be treasure, an inquest has concluded.

Found perfectly preserved by metal detectorists on arable land in Winterbourne Gunner, the coins have been dated back to as early as 253 AD, when Valerian I and Gallienus ruled the empire.

But, as soon as the detectorists – Tony and Paul Hunt – realised the significance of the find on August 19 last year, they called the British Museum to carry out the excavation.

The next day a crack team of archaeologists had descended on the site.

The excavation revealed a 15cm-tall grey jar, buried upright within a pit that had been cut into the natural chalk.

A spokesperson for the museum said: "The finders acted very properly in not digging up the hoard themselves, but rather enabling a professional excavation. They should be acknowledged for this, as too often it does not happen, and we lose important information."

But when the team got back to the museum, the find turned out to be more than they thought.

X-ray analysis revealed coins in the jar, which were filled all the way up to the neck of the jar.

These were then removed from the pot in eight layers, to be analysed by conservator Hayley Bullock.

Each of these layers were analysed, but no difference was found between them to suggest that they had been sorted or deposited at different dates, the museum said.

It has since been displayed by Salisbury Museum, coining the name Bourne Valley Hoard.

The find was judged to be "treasure" by Salisbury senior coroner David Ridley at a special treasure inquest on September 11.

This means, under the 1996 Treasure Act, that "the Crown" is formally regarded as the owner of the items, and not those that discovered it.

This is because it is more than 300 years old and contains in excess of 10% precious metal.

However, under discretion of the museum, compensation may be paid to those who found it, as well as the landowner.

Speaking last year, director of Salisbury Museum, Adrian Green, said: “What is exciting about the Bourne Valley Hoard is that it is going on display in the condition it was found in.

“Treasure cases often disappear from public view until they are acquired by a local museum – but the Hoards exhibition at Salisbury Museum gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase this recent discovery. This wouldn’t have been possible without the kind support of the finders, landowner, the Coroner and the British Museum.”