Divers exploring off the storm-tossed English coast have found a mystery hoard of Moroccan gold that may have been loot from a pirate ship.

"It is unbelievable. This is the sort of thing you dream about," amateur diver Mike Williams said Friday as the glittering 17th century collection was put on display at the British Museum in London."One of our divers saw something glistening on the sea bed, and it was a lump of gold," he said, recalling the moment the gold was found in murky and dangerous waters off England's southern coast.

More than 400 gold coins, gold ingots and jewelry were found along with Dutch Delft pottery. The ship was smashed up long ago in treacherous tides, posing a maritime puzzle for archaeological detectives.

"The identity of the ship still remains a mystery," coin specialist Venetia Porter said. "Was it an English ship or does a single copper coin from Friesland suggest a Dutch source? Or, more tantalizing still, could it have been a pirate ship? It could well have been."

The coins and jewelry have all been identified as being Moroccan. Porter, awaiting an independent evaluation before the British Museum makes a bid, said it was "worth tens of thousands of pounds."

"I am very excited. It is the largest assemblage of Islamic coins found in an English context," she told reporters.

The Barbary Co. was set up in the 16th century to boost trade between England and Morocco. Many of the coins scattered in silt and sand on the sea bed were struck by the Moroccan ruler Ahmad al-Mansur.

The hoard was found by a team of 14 amateur divers who immediately contacted the authorities.

Veronica Robbins, the state's official receiver of wrecks, said the team had an excellent chance of being rewarded with the full net value of the treasure trove.

"This textbook case shows how important it is for divers to come forward," she said.

She said coast guard authorities are now contemplating a nationwide amnesty to try and tease out the hoards of buried treasure "that may have ended up in people's attics."

They may then stage a series of "wreck road shows" around the country to encourage people to come forward with treasure trove finds that want valuing.