Thursday, 4 October 2012

Coins in a context

The Hallaton treasure gives us an unparallel insight into the deposition of coin hoards, even if it presents a special case with the late Iron Age shrine it is connected with. Vicki Score (2011) and a series of specialists have published lately a full volume to present different aspects of the hoard. Even if it is clear that more cartographic presentations and reconstructions will follow taken the emphasis on textual representation in presenting the context and interpretations, the volume shows us how the coins entered into the treasure.

Iron Age coins from Hallaton Treasure

Approximately 64 % of the coins originated from properly excavated stratified contexts. Out of over 5000 coins only 149 were Roman and 116 from other Iron Age areas outside north-east Corieltavi. Most stratified finds were related to an entranceway or to the Roman helmet. The latest Roman coins struck were from early Imperial period from the reign of Emperor Claudius AD 41/42. This confirms the exceptional nature of these deposits originating from a time when ‘the Romans were coming’.

The excavators could count 14 separate hoards in the entranceway area, several of them in clustered appearance, clearly been put into ground in ‘purses’. The make-up was very similar and the coins came from the same circulation pool. They were deposited over an extended period but Leins in the volume assumes they were buried in c. AD 43-50, during the early post-conquest period when the East Midlands was falling under the Romans. The coins buried with the helmet, presenting two different areas of deposition, nevertheless seem to form a single act of deposition. There was a discreet group of coins in the north-eastern part of the helmet pit but there was a number of coins alongside the helmet. The chronological distribution of the helmet coins was consistent with the reign of Emperor Tiberius.

In comparison, only a tiny number of coins came from ditches or other contexts. However, the composition of the ditch contexts was different with 50 % of coins being unstruck early types. These coins represented only a few percent of the entranceway or helmet deposits. There were other metal objects from the ditch, including a silver bowl and silver and silver and copper alloy ingots. The ditch deposits were partly destroyed by a land drain so a detailed reconstruction of the ditch fill contents is not possible.

The general trends in chronological composition were very similar, if not identical to the Scole and Warmington hoards. However, the Hallaton distribution peaks at 89-80 BC that is considered peculiar to the site. A number of coins from the stratified contexts and especially from unstratified ploughsoil are from later Roman periods. There were coins from the Flavian period and the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian but a higher number from the late Roman times, especially the late 4th century AD. These finds seem to avoid the Iron Age ritual area, though.

The Hallaton promontory hillock overlooking the rivervalley

The coin deposits follow different logics. The early ditch deposits were lying on the left-hand side when going in, whereas the entranceway deposits were on the left-hand side when going out. In addition, the feasting deposits were buried outside the boundary. Score suggests a social distinction between the participants inside and outside. The location of many of the hoardsites near the hilltops suggest that the rituals were highly visible to those who were not directly participating in the acts.

Score, V., 2011. Hoards, Hounds and Helmets. A conquest-period ritual site at Hallaton, Leicestershire. Leicester Archaeology Monograph 21.

No comments:

Post a Comment