IRON-AGE entrepreneurs in the North-East proved their salt by recycling bronze coins and making trinkets to sell back to soldiers in the Roman Army, according to experts.

Archaeologists say the evidence was revealed in a hoard of Roman coins discovered by metal detector enthusiasts near Longhorsley, in Northumberland.

The hoard of 70 Roman coins - 61 sesterce and nine dupondii - dates from a period when the Antonine Wall, between Glasgow and Edinburgh, marked the frontier of the Roman empire.

Newcastle University's Archaeological Museum's director and Roman expert, Lindsay Allason-Jones, said: "What makes this find so unusual is that it dates from a period when there was no Roman fort close to Longhorsley, although there were a number of native settlements sites in the area.

"From excavations in the area, we know that the Romans did recycle metal in a military context, and we also know that local farmers were working with bronze.

"The discovery of a sprue - the metal which solidifies in the air holes of a mould - and the very worn faces of the coins in the hoard suggests for the first time that the native Northumbrians were recycling Roman coins.

"They made artefacts, either for their own use or to sell to the Roman Army."

The Longhorsley coin hoard, which will go on display at the university's museum shortly, has no monetary value in present-day terms.

Most of the coins are so worn as to be illegible, so they were probably no longer recognised as official coins of the Roman Empire. - but they would have had value as recyclable bronze.

Ms Allason-Jones said: "The hoard is very valuable in archaeological terms, because this glimpse of local recycling is evidence that there was a relationship between the natives and the military."