Saturday 30 June 2012

Jersey coin hoard

The discovery of a huge hoard of Gaulish and Roman coins in Jersey has hit the headlines recently. An interesting overview of the hoard and its significance is given by ASNC alumna Carly Hilts in Current Archaeology. Further press coverage can be found in the Guardian, the Independent and on the BBC News website.

Dr Rory Naismith, a numismatics expert based in ASNC, gives us some further context for the find:
Coinage was already well known among the pre-Roman peoples of what is now France and Britain long before the Roman conquest. Gold, electrum, silver and base-metal pieces were all made in large volume, many of them bearing rich and artistically accomplished designs. Some also carry the names of kings or mint-places. This major find sheds light on the scale of the Iron-Age currency, and on interaction with the Roman world around the time of Caesar's campaigns in Gaul (c. 50 BC). It constitutes the largest collection of Iron-Age coins ever found, containing approximately 50,000 Iron-Age copper-alloy and silver pieces, along with some Roman pieces. Most of the Iron-Age coins were probably made in Armorica, the region of Gaul now known as Brittany and Normandy. Importantly, its finders - who had been searching with metal-detectors - alerted local archaeological authorities when the nature of the discovery became clear. The hoard was subsequently excavated with all due care, and will be examined thoroughly in a controlled context. It promises to be a major resource for a period when archaeological sources (including coinage) are the principal form of evidence.
Dr Paul Russell, our Head of Department, whose research interests include the Continental Celtic languages, such as Gaulish, adds:
Gaulish tribes acquired literacy as a result of contact with first Greek and then Roman scripts in the second and first centuries BC. Numerous inscriptions, some very lengthy, survive written in Gaulish, the Celtic language of Gaul. One important source of linguistic data is numismatic with many of the coins having the names of rulers or tribes on them though sometimes abbreviated, and often badly worn and difficult to decipher. Even so, this new hoard, particularly in view of its size, promises to add more names to the dossier.
We look forward to discovering what new evidence the hoard reveals about Gaulish history, language and culture.

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