A Roman silver disc found in Swaffham suggests that Christians may have lived in the area up to three centuries earlier than previously thought, experts say.
The item, which was uncovered by a metal detector in the town back in February, was declared to be treasure by Norfolk Coroner William Armstrong in an inquest held at the Lynn County Court on Monday.
And historians believe the discovery is highly significant to developing their knowledge of how Christianity spread in Britain.
The inquest was told that experts from the British Museum said the disc was probably a bezel from a finger ring and was engraved with the inscription “Antonius, may you live in God.”
The disc is thought to date from the fourth or early fifth century, following the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity in 312AD, but long before the official mission to convert Britain to the religion ordered by the Emperor Augustine in 597AD.
That suggests Christians may have lived in the area for almost 300 years prior to the conversion effort.
Adrian Marsden, a finds officer at Norwich Castle Museum, said: “The disc constitutes important evidence for Christianity in late Roman Norfolk.”
The ring disc wasn’t the only historic item found in Swaffham which was declared to be treasure this week.
A hearing was also held following the discovery of four silver Iron Age coins, which were also uncovered in Swaffham by a metal detector.
The units are traditionally associated to the Iceni who are known to have inhabited Norfolk in the Roman period.
Experts from the British Museum said the coins are contemporary local types issued in the first half of the first century AD