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LAST WORDS (part three)

Some of the Jersey hoards appear to be scrap metal conglomerates especially those that contain a diversity of material. When presented with a number of hoards from a small area such as this, the natural reaction is to determine the order in which they were buried. This can usually be done by looking at the patterns of the early and later issues. A hoard that contains a majority of earlier coins and only a few later coins would be considered to precede a hoard where this pattern was reversed.

The Jersey hoards appear to confirm the use of this method, wherever there are more Class IV coins than Class V, there are also more Class III coins than Class I, and vice versa. Using this method we are drawn to the conclusion that the chronology of the four largest hoards starts with Jersey 5, closely followed by Jersey 6, then Jersey 11, and finally Jersey 9.

This method is applicable if we assume that all of the products of the hoard were taken from a local circulation pool. This is where the method breaks down. It is most likely that all of the coins were brought to Jersey from elsewhere, so what we are actually seeing is a sampling from various circulation pools. Not only this, but also each hoard may contain coins from more than one place.

If the coins were gathered from places on the mainland, then there could be a bias to the sampling. The people collecting these coins, presumably either purchasing them with a more standardized currency, or exchanging them for goods, would avoid those areas where they were not welcome.

The presence in Jersey 11 of brooch types obsolete by about 25 B.C. gives us a potential range for the hoards from 25 B.C to 25 AD. The conservative nature of Armorican art leads me to presume that fashions in the area were not quick to change, and such brooches would be worn long after they were abandoned in more cosmopolitan areas. Clearly, more archaeological evidence is needed.

After Caesar left Britain, Roman imports began to dwindle in the south, while the tribes north of the Thames started benefiting from trade agreements probably negotiated with Caesar as part of the terms of surrender. I have always been suspicious of the fact that the British tribes gave up just before the Romans had to leave for the winter. I think that Cassivelaunus saw the opportunity of negotiating more advantageous terms at this time, as Caesar was concerned about a possible uprising in Gaul, and would not have wished to leave a large enough force in Britain to maintain ground already won.

The Durotriges, in the south of England, embarked on a long period of hardships. Their coinage, which was originally gold, was debased by stages, until it became one of bronze only. At Hengistbury, Coriosolite coins were being imported; possible traded for grain, and was melted down to claim the silver. These operations could have persisted for a long period of time. As less silver became available, the Durotriges debased their coinage more. When the supplies came to an end because of the events signified by the abandonment of the hidden caches in Jersey, the change to a completely base coinage was imminent.

This event is not likely to have been much earlier than about 10 AD, conveniently close to the estimated date of 15 to 20 AD for the destruction of Alet. The activities at Hengistbury may have been intermittent: the site was used as late as the middle of the second century. The earlier deposits of coins and metal must have been well hidden to survive undetected for such a long time, indicating periods when the site was abandoned.

The dating of earlier issues of Durotriges coinage has been badly affected by the old idea that the Jersey hoards were buried at the time of the Gallic war, and this has, in its turn, given the impression that the British silver coinage is earlier than it really is. A date after the Gallic war seems most likely: silver is useful for the small market transactions which would be on the increase during this time.

The Brittany hoards are of a completely different nature than the Jersey hoards: besides the differences in the proportions of the products of each mint, there is not the consistent echoing of the profiles of Series X and Series Y. It is only in the Penguilly hoard that this pattern can be seen. In the Roz-Landrieux hoard, the Class V coins outnumber the Classes IV coins by a considerable number. This extreme difference is not echoed by the differences between Classes I and III. The Merdringnac hoard contains an equal number of Class V and Class IV coins, but contains no Class III coins at all. At Trébry, there is an increase from Class V to Class IV, but there is a decrease from Class I to Class III.

As so many factors contributed to this patterning, it is impossible to be certain about specifics. An east-west division is still visible for X and Y respectively, and it is easy to see that the coins were more likely to travel from east to west than in the opposite direction. This shows the line of retreat from Sabinus' forces probably in southern Normandy. The people on the east side of the Rance appeared to have traveled south for a while before turning west. One line of retreat appears to have crossed the Rance in the vicinity of Dinan. This is marked by a series of poorly recorded hoards discovered in the nineteenth century.

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