THE HOARDS (part two)
With most coin hoards, a careful study of the contents and the locations in which the coins were found, enable maps to be compiled showing distribution patterns of the coins, and from that, information may be gleaned as to tribal areas, density of populations, and patterns of trade. When the coins are securely dated, the approximate date of burial may be determined.
With Jersey 9, however, there are difficulties. Everyone agrees that the hoard was buried during or after Caesar's campaigns in Armorica in 57 and 56 B.C., but there is much disagreement above how long thereafter. The old explanation is that the coins were buried by refugees fleeing from the Romans, even though other such hoards have contained coins of a later date. Defenders of the "refugee hoard" theory are quick to point out that later coins could have been "intruders," coins accidentally deposits with the hoard, but at a later time. Unless there is an extant container, or a large rock was placed over the hoard, it is difficult to argue the point.
There is evidence to support the idea that at least some of these hoards were buried later: in at least one hoard, many coins had test-cuts. This was done in order to see the colour of the internal metal and determine the purity. Such a practice would likely have occurred some time after the coins were issued, and suggest that the coins had been taken out of circulation.
Distribution zones for the Coriosolite coinage cannot be determined by the large Jersey hoards. All except the Class II coins were brought to Jersey from mainland Brittany in the south.
I decided to discount small hoards of less than 80 coins from my analysis, since the coins had to be further divided into six classes, and small hoards would present too few examples of the scarcer coins for statistically meaningful conclusions. The smallest hoard I used consisted of 86 coins, appreciably greater than the next smaller hoard of 26 coins.
Distribution patterns of the various classes had been sought before, the only conclusions being that the Class II coins are dominant in the Jersey hoards, and rare in the hoards from Brittany, and Class VI, V, and IV coins are proportionately more plentiful in Brittany than they are in Jersey. All of these coins were believed to have followed each other, class by class.
Studying the stylistic characteristics for the coins, I concluded there were three separate issues. If each class had been its own issue, and the six issues spread over a long period of time, with the demand for each issue fairly constant, then the graphs would show this: the earliest coins would be the rarest, and each subsequent issue would be increasingly more common.
This occurred in Jersey 9, but with some qualification: The gradual increases one would expect are only to be found between Classes VI, V, and IV, and again between Classes I and III. There are larger jumps between Classes IV and I, and again between Classes III and II.
A similar pattern occurs in the Le Catillon hoard (Jersey 11), but the jumps between these same classes are even more extreme. The other two Jersey hoards in this survey, Le Câtel (Jersey 5) and Little Caesarea (Jersey 6), both show a decrease in the number of coins from Classes V to IV, and again from Classes I to III, but between Classes IV and I the jump is not as extreme as in both Jersey 9 and Jersey 11.
All of the hoards found so far contain the latest coins, and in the larger hoards, the earliest coins are also found. The previous arrangement indicates that all of the coins were buried after the latest coins were issued. The current opinion is that the hoards were buried over a period of time.
Katherine Gruel has placed Jersey 11, along with the small hoard from Le Petit Celland in Normandy, at the end of the hoard sequence. This may be true, but with Le Petit Celland, the term "hoard" may be misleading. The coins were found in a scatter at the Le Châtellier fort, in the road beneath where the main (East) gate had stood. The fort was breached before completion: the wood ash, which was found along with the coins and other occupation material, was all that was left of the gate.
There is a disagreement as to the nature of the site: some have maintained that the fort was Sabinus' camp, some have claimed it for Viridovix, while others have refuted both claims. Only the main gate affords easy access along the ridge of the hill, and it is fortified by hornworks. Another entrance, at the south corner, marked by a double wall, appears to open out to a gradient too steep to enable an effective sortie from within, as was launched by Sabinus.
The fort is certainly not constructed along the lines of a Roman camp, and, while providing defense capabilities, the steep sides of the hill make it difficult for a large force to exit efficiently. There is no sign of substained occupation, and the fort, situated in mixed forest and health, an unlikely area for a large population, was probably constructed for emergency measures, and had a very short life span. The defenses at the main gate were incomplete, and a non-standard use of vertical posts made it vulnerable to fire.
The fort may have been under construction when it was attacked, or the construction may have been halted when there was no longer a need for the fort, leaving it to be completed by a gate built hastily, and inexpertly, by a smaller force than was originally intended to occupy the site. That the fort was occupied by a small force is evident from the meagre nature of the finds: much of the pottery was found in a small area of the road surface near the main entrance, suggesting that it was being transported when it was destroyed by the attack. There were no indications of permanent structures built within the walls.
I believe that the most likely interpretation of this site is that construction was undertaken during the Gallic wars as part of Viridovix's defenses, but was subsequently abandoned before completion. Construction resumed later, when a small force had need of its remote location. This later construction was little more than the building of the gate, and other wooden defence structures, and was undertaken without the expertise used in the original construction. The ramparts of the fort enclosed an area of forty-eight acres, the largest fort discovered in Normandy, and it is hard to believe that its builders would have made the mistake that are evident in the wooden defences, which were instrumental to its easy destruction by fire. The finds are interesting: some of the coins had been test-cut to discover the purity of the metal, a feature that implies that they had been minted some time previously. The pottery that was found contained some forms that have been found in the Channel Islands and at Hengistbury in England: their presence at the later location is believed to have been the results of importation by the Durotriges.
Although the twenty coins of this "hoard" are too few for any unusual theories based on the composition, the hoard is so close in profile to those in Jersey, that we might wonder if the compositions of both Jersey and Normandy hoards might be the same. Colbert de Beaulieu has pointed out that in this region, owing to the rarity factor, such a small hoard would be unlikely to contain Classes VI, V, and IV.
In England, the presence of British coins in Jersey 11 created a stir. When the hoard was discovered, the Jersey hoards were thought to have been buried about 50 B.C., so the British coins of Jersey 11 were dated prior to that time. Recently, careful study of other objects in the hoard has led scholars to assign a later date for the deposition. Colin Haselgrove suggests a date of the mid- to later first century B.C. The later part of this period seems most likely to me, but there is a strong possibility that the hoard could have been buried early in the first century A.D. One of the reasons for my later attribution is that the hoard appears to be a scrap metal conglomerate: 28% of the coins had test-cuts.
The British coins were of the Durotriges tribe from Dorset and south-west Hampshire. An important Durotriges site, Hengistbury Head, is where the largest concentrations of Coriosolite coins in England were found.
Hengistbury contained several discrete hoards of Durotriges coins, and many of these had test cuts. In addition, there were signs of metalworking, including cupellation hearths believed to have been used for extracting silver from argentiferous copper mined in the west-country, ingots of billion of higher silver content than the Coriosolite coins, and ingots of copper alone.
If smelting ore was the only purpose of the site, then it is hard to explain the presence of so many coins, especially those with test-cuts, and those sorted by metal content. Many of these Durotriges coins are of much later date than those found in Jersey 11 hoard. The suggestion that the Durotriges supplied the Coriosolites with there billion is not very plausible, as the metal at Hengistbury was refined to a much higher standard than was required by the Coriosolites.
Hengistbury had been an important port of entry for products from the Roman world, particularly wine. From the dates of amphorae found in that region, we see that Caesar's invasions put an end to Hengistbury's wine trade, and subsequent importation of wine and other goods are primarily found north of the Thames. Cassivelaunos, leader of the British forces and whose stronghold was north of the Thames, surrendered to Caesar in 54 B.C. Whether Cassivelaunos or one of his successors negotiated future trade benefits is difficult to say, but the losers were the Durotriges.
The old trade route from Alet in Brittany via the Channel Islands to Hengistbury, although ceasing to provide Britain with wine, still had its uses. Alet had storage facilities for grain - a plentiful commodity in southern Britain, but less so in Brittany, where much of the land was unsuitable.
John Kent believes that the first gold coinage minted in Britain dates to the time of the Gallic wars. These coins, designed British A, are of the same range of fineness as the continental Gallo-Belgic E coins, which Simone Scheers, who specializes in the Belgic series, says were minted to finance the Gallic wars. Gallo-Belgic E coins are found in large quantities in Britain.
The fortunes of the Durotriges seem to have declined at an alarming rate: their coinage started in gold of a slightly lower standard than British A, and then deteriorated in quality from base gold through silver to billion and finally ending in bronze - some of which was plated. Jersey 11 contained a wide variety of coins, including gold, silver, and billion from diverse locations: Armorica, Britain, and central Gaul.
Among the silver coins were some quarter units, generally known as quarter staters, which were the earliest variety of a type found in the Durotriges territory, and they sometimes contain just enough gold to give the silver the slightest tint of yellow, and inhabit corrosion. In Sussex, to the east of the Durotriges, gold coins of the same size and design are found. They are also found on the continent and Scheers assigns them to the Gallic war period. The quarters in Jersey 11, therefore, are derivatives of a type current during the war. If the hoard is one of scrap metal, then these coins can be assumed to have been obsolete at the time of burial.
Finally, there is the evidence of Caesar himself, who wrote that the Britons used gold and bronze coins, and iron ingots of fixed weight as currency. The bronze he referred to is believed to be an early cast potin variety dated prior to the wars. If there were a British silver coinage in Caesar's time, he would have likely been made aware of it. Caesar obtained more knowledge on Britain from informants or captives than he gathered personally, and a good general would definitely want information on what riches could be found in a country marked for invasion.
Stylistically, the earliest British silver coins are staters from Durotriges territory, also to be found in Jersey 11. Their design is derived from the British A gold staters, which, as mentioned above, are dated to the Gallic wars.
So much for the evidence of the coins: this alone suggests a later date for the start of the British silver coins than 50 B.C., with Jersey 11 having been buried even later than this.
Various other objects were found in Jersey 11, again, all apparently scrap, including a piece of a torc made of gold foil overlayed on an iron core, and other objects of silver, bronze, and iron. Most telling among these objects were some brooches, in silver or bronze, of a form that was manufactured around the middle of the first century B.C.; as none of that type are found in early Augustan forts north of the Alps, they are thought to have been out of fashion by about 25 B.C.
The pre-war trade route from Alet to Hengistbury included Jersey. Alet came to a violent end in about 15 to 20 AD: the reasons are unclear. The end of Alet possibly signified the end of trade with the Durotriges, which could have forced the final debasement of their currency to that of bronze. After the end of Alet, Jersey may have been used as an illicit port of trade with the Durotriges. The coins from the Alet region could also have been collected earlier than the coins from less important areas, and taken to England where they were melted down. A greater percentage of Class VI coins have been found in England than in Jersey.
The attack on the fort at Le Petit Celland might have occurred about the same time as the destruction of Alet the two events being part of a campaign against anti-Roman fractions. History is silent on these matters, but as there is little documented evidence about the area during this period, we should be careful not to arbitrarily assign all of the archaeological evidence to the few events reported by Caesar. Perhaps future excavations will provide us with more accurate dates for the depositions of the Jersey hoards. I am sure that they date between 25 B.C. and 25 AD, and I favor the last ten of fifteen years of that span.
For all its importance, the number of Coriosolite coins found at Alet is disappointing: only twenty-two staters and five quarter staters have been reported from the area. With such a small number at this, it is impossible to present a valid statistical analysis. Some comments are, however, warranted. Figures are sometimes given that combine the number of staters with that of the quarter staters. In a large hoard this would be harmless, if not giving a totally accurate picture, as the quarter staters are so rare that they comprise a miniscule percentage of the whole. In Jersey 5, for example, among the 760 coins published in 1838, there were only two-quarter staters.
A potential danger in uniting the numbers for the two denominations, particularly in small finds, is that the comparative rarity of the quarter staters is different from that of the staters. Of the quarter staters from Alet, two each were of Class IV and II, and one was of Class III. As Class IV is a common class for quarter staters, there is nothing unusual about these numbers. Of the staters, however, only three were of Class IV and two were Class I, while six were Class III, and eleven were of Class II. This number of Class II coins is unusual for a site in Brittany; there are more here than in the large hoard from Trébry.
The ratio of Class I to III staters suggests a late arrival of the coins of Series Y. The absence of any coins of Class VI is to be expected in such a small sample, but the absence of Class V, with Series X being represented only by three staters of Class IV, together with the greatest number of staters being Class II, does show a pattern more indicative of the Jersey hoards than those of Brittany, and it is quite likely that most of these coins found their way to Alet after the Gallic War.
Before I discuss the hoards from Brittany, I feel that it is necessary to simplify the terminology with regard to the classes of Coriosolite coins. To state that Class III is after Class VI, but before Class II, taxes one's powers of concentration. While I have retained these classes in the catalogue section to provide an easy reference to the earlier works, and necessarily refer to them when I discuss the internal chronologies of the hoards, they should have been dispensed with long ago.
I have divided my fifteen groups into three series, each series stylistically and geographically separate. Series X contains the coins given to Classes VI, V, and IV; Series Y is composed of two classes, I and III; and series Z is the single Class II.
The Jersey hoards are all more than 50% Series Z. These coins are rare in Brittany, but although the recorded hoards from Normandy are too small for detailed analysis, it appears that they are of similar configuration to those from Jersey. This presents a problem when calling these coins Coriosolite. If the mint site was in Normandy, they really should belong to the Unelli, a tribe that occupied that area; however, the leader of the Unelli was Viridovix, who was also the commander of the Armorican forces that included the Coriosolites, so I am leaving these coins with the Coriosolites for the present, the general area of their mint site being still uncertain. After Series Z, Series Y is the commonest in Jersey, Series X being relatively scarce there.