Ancient coins and jewellery thought to have been plundered from an archaeological site have been recovered after a police raid.

Officers from Sussex Police said they had recovered a “large quantity of items of considerable antiquity” from a Sussex home yesterday morning.

A 51-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of “nighthawking” - the looting of ancient monuments by unlawful searches, usually at night, including the use of metal detectors.

Medieval and Roman coins, ivory and silver, and one gold iron age from 1st Century BC coin were all discovered at the property in Barnham, near Bognor.

Among the treasure-trove was brooches, buttons and horse equipment of similar ages and an 'anpulla' - a souvenir-type item often taken by pilgrims to mark their pilgrimage to religious sites across the country.

Detectives believe some of the items found at the house were stolen from archaeological sites in the Chichester area and elsewhere recently.

The exact location of the Chichester site has been withheld by police to keep it safe.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “The man is being detained for interview on suspicion of offences under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, and the Theft Act, and the items are being examined but the search is continuing and listing all the finds may take some time.”

Sussex officers are being helped in the investigation by a Kent Police team, led by Chief Inspector Mark Harrison, who specialise in investigating 'heritage crime'.

They are helping to examine the scenes and the items found.

Two qualified archaeologists, who are retained when needed as police support staff, are also part of the team.

Dr Andy Brown, English Heritage Director for the South East, said: “English Heritage welcomes the responsible use of metal detectors, but we support action by the police where evidence of illegal metal detecting has been found. Nighthawking is on the increase and not only robs the rightful owner of their property but deprives us all of the knowledge that can be gleaned from studying the artefacts.”