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Rare Roman coin is latest incredible find unearthed on A14 upgrade

The coin has been described as 'incredibly rare' Credit: Highways England

An incredibly rare coin featuring a Roman emperor who reigned for only two months is the latest remarkable discovery made on Britain’s biggest road upgrade.

The ‘radiate’ coin, which depicts the Roman emperor Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus wearing a radiate crown, is only the second of its kind to be discovered on an archaeological dig in England.

It was uncovered by the team of archaeologists working on Highways England’s £1.5billion upgrade of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

The find is significant because the usurper Laelianus ruled a breakaway empire from Rome for a short spell in the Third Century, with evidence of his reign very rare. It's likely that the coin did not arrive in Britain from the continent until after the emperor had died.

“Discoveries of this kind are incredibly rare. This is one of many coins that we’ve found on this exciting project, but to find one, where there are only two known from excavations in this country that portray this particular emperor, really is quite significant. I look forward to seeing how the analysis of this find along with numerous other Roman remains that we have found on this project help us better understand our past.”

– Dr Steve Sherlock, archaelogy lead for the A14
Julian Bowsher examines the find Credit: Highways England

The coin was discovered in the ditch of a small Roman farmstead unearthed on the project and the head on it has been identified by a leading coin expert as the ill-fated Emperor Laelianus who usurped the Gallic Empire in 269AD.

Highways England is working with experts from MOLA Headland Infrastructure on the A14.

“Roman emperors were very keen to mint coins. Laelianus reigned for just two months which is barely enough time to do so. However, coins were struck in Mainz, Germania. The fact that one of these coins ever reached the shores of Britain, demonstrates remarkable efficiency, and there’s every chance that Laelianus had been killed by the time this coin arrived in Cambridgeshire.”

– Julian Bowsher, numismatist at MOLA Headland Infrastructure
Workers on the A14 project posing with woolly mammoth tusks and woolly rhino skulls, believed to be around 100,000 years old Credit: Highways England

The A14 project has already yielded some amazing insights into the region's rich history.

An even older coin was found on the project recently, dating back in 57 BC, meaning it was likely minted to help fund the resistance to Julius Caesar. The Gallic War Uniface coin was minted by the Ambiani tribe, who lived around what is now Amiens in the Somme area of modern day France, and exported their currency across The Channel to the Celtic cousins to help resist the Romans.

This coin dates back to 57 BC Credit: Highways England