THE HOARDS (part three)
While the charts of the Jersey hoards show a similar profile, The Brittany hoards appear, at first glance, to be varied. This is because there is interplay between the factors of time and geography. Once the data are grouped into three series, these factors can be separated and the picture immediately resolved. By treating each series as we would treat coins of separate tribes, a more logical pattern emerges.
The Roz-Landrieux hoard contains the greatest percentage of Class VI coins of all the hoards, while the Class IV content is quite small. The peak is at the coins of Class V. This indicates that the primary distribution of these coins was earlier than the Trébry hoard, whose peak was at Class IV, and contained a typically small percentage of Class VI coins.
The Merdrignac hoard is placed between these last two, with an equal percentage of Classes V and IV.
I have used the term "primary distribution," rather than circulation pool, as it is doubtful if these coins ever circulated in the modern sense. It is most likely that bulk sums were paid to particular chieftains, the amount depending on the size of their contingent, and their estimated value to the war effort. The common soldier likely saw very little of this money. Bond slavery was an important part of the Celtic social structures, and Caesar noted that the common man was often heavily burdened by debt.
All of the Brittany hoards are dominated by Series X, next to that comes Series Y, and by far the smallest percentage is Series Z. Regional differentiation is shown by the proportion of X to Y.
Trébry and Penguilly are both very high in Y; given the extreme difference in the sizes of these hoards, they exhibit a very similar profile. This is easily explained by their geographical proximity.
Merdrignac and Roz-Landrieux are low in Y, but in this case, the hoards are quite a distance from each other. Terrain seems to play an important role here, as both hoards were buried in the land adjoining the right bank of the River Rance.
Trébry and Penguilly were a few miles in on the side of the left bank. The river was a natural boundary between the two groups, both members of the Coriosolite tribe, though perhaps the people on the right bank were members of an as yet unnamed tribe.
The style of the coins of Series X is similar to that of their neighbors, the Redones, whose territory probably touched the right bank of the Rance at one point.
A hoard that has not been studied, and presumably dispersed, is form Henan-Bihem: it is said to have consisted of a large number of Classes III coins. This location is NNE of Trébry, quite a distance away, and also some distance from the Rance, but not far from the coast.
The map reveals the approximate geographical focus of X and Y. Without further archaeological evidence, it would be rash to try to define the regions of Series X and Y much more than this. In times of war, much panic results, and certain routes of travel are rendered too risky by the proximity of enemy forces. A statistical analysis cannot be relied on too heavily; too many unknown factors are possible.
Many more hoards than I have discussed here have been unearthed. A series of hoards, starting at St. Solen, east of the Rance, runs northwestward to Dinan on the Rance, and continues in the same direction to Corseul, and, finally, to St. Denoual. The information we have is sketchy, but it is only the latter hoard that seems to contain any coins other than Series X. If the other hoards contain Series Y, we must assume they were in such a minority as not to warrant mention. These hoards could mark a line of retreat from the area east of the Rance, which is more dominant in Series X. Today, Dinan is known for its mineral water. Springs were important in Celtic religion, and if the springs at Dinan were known in ancient times, routes would have been established through that area from different directions.
Other hoards have been found in Normandy, but, again, little information is available on their contents. Most of the hoards are recorded as having a boar beneath the pony, which identifies them as either Series Y or Series Z. The rare coins of Group A, also with the boar, are unlikely to be present in hoards that do not contain the lyre type of Series X. The Tourlaville and Lorey hoards appear to be completely Series Z, while those from Graignes and Avranches are mixed Y and Z. Only one Normandy hoard, from Plessis-Grimault, is reported to contain coins of Series X.
As these poorly recorded hoards were found mainly in the nineteenth century, what little information we have should be treated with caution. Tribal attributions have changed over the years, and some of the descriptions are ambiguous.
We cannot be sure of the exact location of Viridovix's stand against the Romans, but the most probable site is inside Unelli territory in southern Norandy, in the vicinity of Le Petit Celland. The lines of retreat would thus be northward into Normandy, southward along the Rance, and westward toward the Osismii territory. By boat, the coasts of Brittany and Normandy, as well as the Channel Islands and perhaps even Britain, would all have been accessible without the likelihood of Roman interference. Coriosolites fleeing from Sabinus had no idea of Caesar's victory over the Veneti, and had, in fact, been given information to the contrary; so even a possible southwest movement cannot be ruled out.
Many events shaped the pattern of Coriosolite hoards: The coins of Group A and B dispersed before the final Roman onslaught, their rarity making it difficult to separate their dispersed numbers from the rest of Series X. Group C coins are contemporary with the capture of the Roman envoys, and just prior to the coalition which that act made necessary. Group D coins were minted after the coalition, and because of the expenses of the war, and the possible disappearance of chieftains unwilling to unite with old enemies, the coins were devalued by 25%. The rest of Series X was than issued.
Series Y was issued at a location west of the issue of Series X. Series Z was minted at about the same time by Viridovix, in an unknown location, possibly in southern Normandy. The chronology of the issues is established by the averages in the silver content of each Class, and could be variable between the three different mints; thus, it is difficult to be very specific about the chronology. The Merdringnac hoard contained coins of Series Z, but did not contain coins of Class III; yet this only tells us that the Series Z coins arrived at that location before the Class III coins were able to - it does not have to mean that the Series Z coins were minted before Class III.
The Coriosolite coins "circulated" for many years after Caesar had left Gaul, but they appear not to have traveled far from the locations they reached during the Gallic war. The Coriosolite port of Alet seems to have traded with the Durotriges in England to about 25 B.C.; after then, their trading interests moved elsewhere.
The island of Jersey maintained trade with the Durotriges at Hengistbury from that time, likely until or shortly after Alet was destroyed in about 15 to 20 A.D. The destruction of Alet may have been retaliation for the black marketeering that the Coriosolites were conducting with the Durotriges through Jersey. Trade benefits were perhaps part of the terms of surrender of Cassivelaunos and his allies, leaving the Durotriges in an economic crisis resulting in the rapid devaluation of their currency.
The contents of the Jersey hoards indicates that the coins had little or no circulation in Jersey, and that the coins were brought there from various locations. The coins were brought to Jersey for sorting and resales to the smelting works at Hengistbury; in return, grain could be shipped directly to the storage facilities at Alet, perhaps eventually coming to the attention of pro-Roman authorities and signaling the end of Alet.
Much of this is speculation, but it serves as a theoretical model that includes the currently known facts. As more evidence comes to light, the story may change; this is a little-known period of European history.
The attention paid to Coriosolite coin hoards has been uneven. Jersey 11 was raised to paramount importance because of the British coins it contained. When the dating of the hoard was questioned, some scholars were reluctant to question the dating of the British silver coinage.
That the Merdrignac hoard contained no Class III coins, and yet did contain the presumed later Class II coins, has not seemed worthy of comment. This is especially strange when the Henan-Bihem hoard is said to have consisted of only Class III coins. It is tempting to suggest that the mint site for Series Y was in the vicinity of Henan-Bihem, and that the coins of this hoard were the last products of that mint; perhaps these coins were to be paid to the people that buried the Merdrignac hoard.
Previous studies of Coriosolite coins have neglected a thorough stylistic analysis. Divisions have been made based on only one or two features on the coins; essentially, the style of the nose on the obverse, and the object in front of the pony on the reverse.
It had been noticed that the coins of Classes VI, V and IV were rarer in Jersey than they were in Brittany; presumably, this was seen as a result of the time factor alone. Had anyone grouped together these coins, then grouped together Classes I and III, because Class II could be separated out owing to its abundance in Jersey, the three series would have been manifested.
I had suspected that the patterns of the Brittany hoards would make more sense if the coins were grouped by series, but I had no idea they would give such a clear picture of a cultural or political boundary, until I tried it. Hoards close to each other would be completely different if the River Rance were between the two. A corollary to this is the fact that two hoards could be a great distance from each other, but if they were both on the same side of the river, then they would be very similar.
Metallurgical analyses were arranged on the basis of the six classes. This gave the appearance that each class followed in turn, and when one ended, another began. It was the average silver content that was considered important, and the decline was attributed to the passage of time. If we allow for three mints there can be overlapping periods when these mints were producing coins. Some overlap is possible even if all three mints were producing coins of the same intrinsic worth at the same time. I have doubts that this was the case. Single coins of any class can be found that has a greater or lesser silver content than single coins of any other class. The devaluation at the start of Class IV that was recorded by Gruel has validity, but other apparent declines may be more particular to separate decisions of each mint, and to a decreasing amount of care in the production of the coins over time.
The coins of Class I in the Trébry hoard are closer in their intrinsic worth than the later Class III coins. The later coins have a lower silver content on the average. If little care was taken during the production of the blanks, some coins would be low in silver other would be high. People wishing to make a profit would cull coins that had a high intrinsic worth. The moneyers themselves probably noticed some coins that were too rich. If these were passed according to a set rate of exchange, then they would be giving away money. While not being too concerned with exceptionally base coins, perhaps feeling that it would be the responsibility of whoever accepted the coin to take or leave it, they would be less cavalier with coins too rich. They may have returned them to the melting pot or perhaps profited from them personally. As these coins disappeared, what was left gives an impression of an intended devaluation. The actual cause might be merely an increasing lack of care and a willingness to profit from their mistakes, if in an ignoble manner.
Much of this argument is a by-product of my studies of the stylistic evolution of these coins. Conventional methods of die linking are associated with the production of the coins: metallurgical analyses by groups of linked dies would give a more accurate picture of the production methods in a time framework. My emphasis is on the production of the dies. No one would believe that the Coriosolites expected a single pair of dies to last for the entire striking procedure, and that the minting would come to an abrupt halt because a die broke or wore out and another had to be engraved. Dies were given to the moneyers in batches that would be expected to last them for a while, or even for the entire production. The moneyers were under no obligation to use them in the same order that they were engraved. If the run of coins were intended to be of a consistent intrinsic worth, then there would be no point in doing this.
In recent years, numismatic interest has focused on coinage as a medium of exchange. The images to be found on the coins has been pushed aside as being in the realm of art history. Art-historians, when faced with the subjects of numismatics, have been too timid to tackle the subject in any meaningful way. Much is lost because of this mutual neglect. Both art history and numismatics have many things to offer in the study of Celtic coins, and neither gives a complete understanding without the other.
The visual recording of Jersey 9 by Rybot, who had no knowledge of numismatics, but drew the designs as a naturalist would illustrate a hitherto unknown species, has been more useful to me than the entire body of literature on the subject. The true value of a study can only be measured by how it can be built upon by those who follow. By this criterion, Rybot's study is paramount.
Any scientific study must contain enough information to enable other scholars to check the results. If coins are not illustrated by photographs or accurate drawings, then the given attributions to classes, varieties, and dies have to be taken on faith alone.
I have demonstrated that some coins have been misidentified in the past. It is not the fact of errors that I object to: these are inevitable. As more information comes to light, we find that some of our pervious judgements were wrong. It is the occlusion of data that is in question. It is true that photographs are expensive and accurate drawings are both difficult and time consuming, but with the Coriosolite coins there is already a storehouse of visual information.
Hoards that have not been cross-referenced to Rybot are of little value to those who do not have access to them. And any new varieties of coins demand to be recorded as accurately as those of Jersey 9.
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