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General introduction, and the coins of Group A to G (Classes VI, V and IV)

Most catalogues are not intended to be read from beginning to end; coin collectors look for a particular coin, and write the description verbatim to serve as a record for their collection. The descriptions in most catalogues are extremely abbreviated. For example, we might see a Greek coin recorded as having the head of Apollo on the obverse, and a lyre on the reverse, together with any inscription on the coin and a reference to an academic work that lists that particular coin.

In contrast, the catalogue of Coriosolite coins which follows is designed to be read in its entirety. As you read though it, look at the corresponding illustration for each part of the description. Simply picking a coin at random and reading its entry in the catalogue will give only part of the picture. I have attempted to minimize repetition by describing each lasting change only once, so that I might mention that a particular design on one coin will continue for the rest of the group, or even for the rest of the Coriosolite series, and I may never refer to that change again. This is necessary in order to isolate change in the designs and demonstrate the evolutionary process at work.

No other catalogue goes that far; often with other series of coins, there is no need for it to. There are minor differences in the dies of most coins, as it is almost impossible to repeat a drawing exactly. When differences like this appear on the Coriosolite coins, I usually do not mention them. Instead, I will say that this obverse is similar to the last, or that it differs only in the proportions. This means there is no evidence of intent to change the design.

The number of intentional changes on Coriosolite coins is extraordinary; it was this variety that first encouraged me to look for evolutionary changes, and thus compile a chronology based on minor as well as major changes.

It soon became apparent die-engravers were not simply improved the designs, they were doing subtle and clever things with them. There were examples of what I came to call "variations on a theme": the engraver would break away from the usual pattern in order to express the idea in different ways; having done so, he might revert to the original design. The internal chronology of these variations, while often difficult to detect, is made possible by the occasional occurrence of these changes in tandem with other evolutionary changes that are part of the improvement of the design.

The changes that persist, together with the designs that change in stages to a definite end, are here plotted on flow charts. I first made these charts to discover the order. It was not easy: some of the most obvious differences were examples of variation on a theme, and where these occurred, they mimicked changes on other coins that did define a chronology. It was necessary to find repetitions and evolutionary features in the most minor of details in order to expose these variations for what they were. Where design changes overlap, the chronology is the most certain; where there is no overlap, whatsoever, there is a complete break in the chronology. There are two such breaks, separating the coinage into three series; reexamining the data from the hoards in the light of this division, we clearly see the existence of three mints. In one case, this division is reinforced by the use of different production techniques.

The most interesting aspect of these three series was the different psychology enabled me to detect some religious principles governing Celtic artists, and the methods that they used to circumvent them, when they felt it necessary.

I have retained much of Rybot's nomenclature for the designs: whisks are the decorated strands around the head, and sometimes at the nose or the chin. They are not intended to be interpreted as real whisks, but designs reminiscent of them. Chariot ponies are so described because the Celts did not use large horses for this purpose; forelocks are probably symbols rather than part of a Celt's hairstyle. The lyre symbol, originally a megalithic sun-symbol of specific interpretation, is intended to be read as such in addition to the literal object; boars are not intended to be real, nor are they military standards, as is commonly believed: they are definitely religious symbols. These symbols are discussed at length in Chapter 6.

Although I use some of Rybot's terms, my interpretation of the design is usually different, as Rybot was following the earlier convention of ascribing a Greek origin for many of the elements on the coins. An example of this is the supposed derivation of the whisks around the head from an original design on the coins of Syracuse in Sicily, having dolphins around the head of Arethusa. The head floating above the pony on the reverse of some coins of Series Y is often called a "Victory," alluding to the chariot races depicted on Syracusan coins, where a figure of Victory, or more properly, Nike, crowns a horse with a laurel wreath.

Such coincidental similarities are easy to misinterpret as prototypes of a design, but further inspection raises many questions.

The earlier Armorican gold coins do not have the head above the pony; why would the Armoricans be influenced by a foreign coin that they had no connections with, which was minted over three hundred years earlier? Also, the supposed connections between these two devices of the Nike and the floating head are minimal, and are based on little more than a similar positioning of the two. The hair of the head above the pony is derived from the split-palmette motif, which appeared during the archaic period, and was also used during that time to depict the wing of Pegasus, on coins of Corinth, or the sphinx, on the coins of Chios, among several other applications.

There is better evidence for gold staters of Philip II of Macedon being prototypes of some Celtic coins. It is believed the Macedonians paid Celtic mercenaries with these coins, and later the Celts copied the design for their own early coinage.

Certain terms in the catalogue will become self-explanatory as you view the illustrations. I use the term "curl" where others might use "spiral," because the design, usually having only a single turn, resembles a curl more than a spiral, which is generally pictured as having several turns. I do use the word "spiral" where the design occurs at the ear position of the obverse head, as there are sound mythological precedents for this.

Some terms I use are not specific descriptions but are concerned with an understanding of the overall design. For example, a "section" is a raised mass on the coin: thus, heads have cheek sections, back sections, and chest sections, and so forth. A "design motif" may contain more than one "design element": the elements often recombine with others to produce different motifs. A design element can be said to "echo" another element where it copies, or even approximates the first element, as "(" echoes "(" and can even be said to echo "((". In the second example, one reminds us of the other, even if they are not identical. A design element "opposes" another element where it is a mirror image, as "(" is to ")". The opposition may be in any direction, and it may not be exact, as "(" is to "))". Sometimes when design elements are distant from each other, I say one "reflects" the other, reserving the term "opposition" for design elements in close proximity.

Certain parts of the design I have ignored on a coin to coin basis. The number of curls on the head is unimportant, and varies from one coin to the next. There is, however, a tendency for the number to increase, as the die engraver becomes more proficient. The presence or absence of a shoulder-ridge between the pony's chest and back sections (and whether this ridge connects to the pony's inner front leg or not) is apparently random, and probably has something to do with the space available. The shoulder-ridge is only mentioned when it is of novel design.

The most important use of the catalogue is in tracing how the designs evolve and how the individual die-engravers treat their subject. For a complete understanding of this, it may be necessary to read the catalogue more than once.

Some may believe that I have described too much detail, and that the illustrations show all that is there to see; on the contrary, the designs are so complex that without specific directions for viewing them, some details may be overlooked. This is easily tested: take a coin that has a long description, and study the illustration for a few minutes. Then, read the description and see what you have missed.

It takes remarkable powers of observation to absorb the entire design, in all its relationships, both internal and external. Internally, there are the relationships between the various design elements on each coin; externally, there are changes from previous designs. The catalogue "talks you through" the movements of these designs as if you were being instructed to land a plane for the first time. If you are already familiar with Celtic design, then reading the catalogue will provide you with connections to other familiar objects.

For identifying specific coins there is the Quick Identification Chart. Provided there is enough of the design on the coin, its entry can be located in about two minutes. For coins in poor condition, the index of shapes will help to locate a possible identification, or at least that general area of the catalogue dealing with that coin. Also, the index of shapes can be utilized to gain an overview of the modifications of the various motifs. The motifs are in chronological order, based on the first appearance of the motif.

The flow charts can serve a similar purpose, although the main reason for their inclusion here is to illustrate the chronology of the dies.

For ease of reference, I have placed the number of the coin in bold at the beginning of its main entry; a blank line separates each coin entry.

At times, the chronology given is an opinion unsupported by evidence. Where this is the case, I have placed those coins in parentheses, and often made separate mentions of this in the text.

The following is the general description of a Coriosolite coin:

Diameter: irregular, generally 20 - 25mm

Weight: widely varying can be as low as 4 g or as high as 8g. The usual range is about 6.3g to 6.7g

Metal: Billion, an alloy of copper and tin (bronze) with silver and some impurities, such as gold, in proportion as much as 0.33%. The silver content can be as low as 3% or as high as 40%, but most often is between 20 and 35%.

Obverse: Head to right; hair is in three masses or locks, each composed of many hairs, some of which terminate in small curls. The top lock of hair has as an "S" shape that contains additional decoration in its lower part.

Reverse: Chariot pony and driver to right, symbol below.

Other additional details depend on the type.

The following are descriptions of the defining features of the Classes defined by J. -B. Colbert de Beaulieu:

All of the below have human-headed ponies with reins.

A nose shaped like a backward "2" Reverse: In front of the pony is a symbol resembling a ladder on its side, the outermost rung a crescent. There is a boar symbol beneath the pony.

A nose shaped like a crozier. Reverse: In front of the pony a large cross; below, a lyre symbol.

A varying shape of nose, but generally with a curved base, and an extended top. Reverse: No symbol in front of pony; rein is decorated with a curl and two leaves. Lyre symbol as in Class V.

The entries below are without reins.

Head has a forelock and naturalistic nose. Reverse:Pony is without reins, has a cheek section and a pellet for an eye. Boar symbol below pony.

Head has a forelock and anchor-shaped nose; eye is a bead within a circle truncated at the top by a straight eyebrow line.2" Reverse: Pony either of two styles; first has cheek section with a notch to delineate eye; second has pointed muzzle with no cheek section and a bead for an eye. Boar symbol as before.

Head has a forelock; a double whisk issues from the mouth. Reverse: Driver with a head shaped like a tennis racket; pony has no cheek section, a large open mouth, and a tail with beads. In front of pony, a small cross of four pellets. Boar symbol with V-shaped legs below pony.

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