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Interpreting Roman Hoards

Author(s): Richard Reece


Source: World Archaeology, Vol. 20, No. 2, Hoards and Hoarding (Oct., 1988), pp. 261-269
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/124474
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Interpreting
R o m a n h o a rd s
R ich a rd R eece
One o f th e m a in
pro blem s
wh ich fa ces
a nyo ne
wh o s ets o ut to d is cus s R o m a n h o a rd s is
th e s h eer num ber o f s uch
find s ,
th eir
geo gra ph ica l
d is tributio n,
a nd th e a m o unt o f extra
kno wled ge, s epa ra te
fro m th e
gro ups
o f
o bjects ,
wh ich
h elp,
o r
h ind er,
o ur
interpreta tio n.
Th us to d o th e
s ubject jus tice
it wo uld be
neces s a ry
to co ns id er
every po s s ible
cla s s o f
o bject,
fo und in
gro ups ,
o ver a n eno rm o us a rea o f
unifo rm ity
wh ich we ca ll th e R o m a n
em pire.
Since,
in th e
tim e,
a nd with th e
energy,
a va ila ble th is is
clea rly im po s s ible
I s h a ll
ta ke Brita in a nd no rth wes t
Euro pe
a s
s a m ples
o f th e
wh o le,
a nd I s h a ll th en co ncentra te
o n
gro ups
o f
o bjects
wh ich cus to m d icta tes a re
h o a rd s , th o ugh
it is wo rth
clea ring
th e
gro und by a s king
h o w o ur
us a ge
o f s uch term s is fo rm ed a nd to wh a t extent it is lim ited .
We ca n
o nly
kno w a bo ut R o m a n h o a rd s eith er
by d is co vering
th em o r
by rea d ing
a bo ut th em in
co ntem po ra ry s o urces ,
but s ince we h a ve
o nly
th e m a teria l
a ga ins t
wh ich
to ch eck th e written s o urces I s h a ll
igno re
th em . Eith er
th ey co rres po nd
with
rea lity (i.e.
m a teria l)
in wh ich ca s e
th ey
a re
unneces s a ry,
o r
th ey
d o
no t,
in wh ich ca s e
th ey
a re
eith er
wro ng
o r a nuis a nce. I s h a ll o f co urs e d es ert th is h a rd line wh en I wa nt to
interpret
a ny h o a rd ,
but th is is no t to
nega te m y beliefs ,
s im ply
to und erline th e d ifference
between th e
fa cts ,
th e m a teria l
fo und ,
a nd th e
interpreta tio n
o f th e fa cts . Th e fo rm er
purs uit
is ba s ed
s o lely
o n th e m a teria l d irected
by po s itivis t
s cientific
m eth o d s ;
th e la tter
is in th e rea lm o f id ea s
wh ere,
s ince no o ne h a s
yet s ugges ted a ny m eth o d o lo gy, a nyth ing
go es .
I like th e two
purs uits
to be
co ngruent,
th e id ea s s h o uld
res pect
th e fa cts . His to rica l
a nd o th er written s o urces will be us eful in
d is cus s ing
wh a t h o a rd s
were,
in term s o f intent
a nd belief,
wh y th ey
were
d epo s ited ,
a nd
wh y th ey m igh t
no t h a ve been reco vered .
Th ey
will be a s
m uch ,
o r a s little
us e,
a s m o d ern
a nth ro po lo gica l
o r
s o cio lo gica l a na lo gies ,
a nd
m a ny
o th er
po s s ible
s o urces o f
ins pira tio n,
a nd th ere is no need fo r th em to be
h is to rica lly
'co rrect'. Th us a
twelfth -century fa nta s y
with no ro o ts in
fifth -century rea lity
ca n be m o re us e in
lea d ing
a n
a rch a eo lo gis t
to a
go o d interpreta tio n
o f a co llectio n o f
fifth -century
m a teria l th a n a s eventh - o r
eigh th -century h is to ry by
a ca reful s ch o la r. Put
m o re
clea rly,
th ere is no
neces s a ry
co nnectio n between a written s o urce's h is to rica l
relia bility
a nd its
a rch a eo lo gica l
us efulnes s in th e rea lm o f
interpreta tio n
a nd id ea s .
With th is
prea m ble
it will no t s eem to o s evere to
s a y
th a t no h o a rd ca n ever h a ve
with in it
a ny
id ea s o f
wh y
it wa s buried o r
wh y
it wa s no t reco vered . It
m a y
be th a t th e
a rch a eo lo gica l
circum s ta nces in wh ich th e h o a rd is fo und will
give
s o m e
s tro ng
s ugges tio ns
o n th es e
po ints ,
o r it
m a y
be th a t s o m e o f th e item s in th e
h o a rd ,
s uch a s
Wo rld
Arch a eo lo gy
Vo lum e 20 No . 2 Ho a rd s a nd
Ho a rd ing
? R o utled ge
1988 0043-8243/88/2002/261 $1.50/1
262 R ich a rd R eece
co ins o r s ilver
pla te,
a re
ins cribed ,
a nd fro m th es e lea d s a
pla us ible expla na tio n
o f th e
h o a rd
m a y
be m a d e. But in th es e ca s es it is th e
circum s ta nces ,
o r th e
s cripts ,
wh ich lea d to
interpreta tio n
a nd no t th e m a teria l item s o f th e h o a rd . Th us a
tem ple
o f
Ma rs ,
s o
d is tinguis h ed by
a n
ins criptio n,
revea ls a ca ch e o f
figurines
o f a rid er o n
h o rs eba ck;
th e
ins criptio n
a nd th e fo rm o f th e
tem ple, to geth er
with wh a t we kno w o f th e cult o f Ma rs
fro m R o m a n
writers ,
lea d us to ca ll th is a vo tive
d epo s it,
wh ich we a s s um e th a t no o ne
wo uld ever h a ve tried to 'reco ver' o r
put
ba ck into
genera l co m m erce,
s o we s ee it a s a
very
d ifferent
entity
fro m th e
typica l
h o a rd o f s m a ll bro nze co ins . A h o a rd o f s m a ll bo ne
o nio ns wo uld
po s e
ra th er m o re d ifficult
pro blem s
o f
interpreta tio n.
We a re th erefo re
d ea ling
with a
perio d
o f m a teria l culture wh ich Ja rrett
(1983:22)
h a s
s o
righ tly
la belled 'text-h ind ered '. Ho a rd s o f
figurines
h a ve
a lrea d y
been
m entio ned ;
h o a rd s o f bo ne o nio ns h a ve been
invented ,
but
o bjects
in a lm o s t
a ny
m a teria l ca n m a ke
up
h o a rd s o r ca ch es o f th e R o m a n
perio d .
Th e m o s t o bvio us
h o a rd s , perh a ps
th e m o s t
num ero us ,
a re h o a rd s o f
co ins ;
iro nwo rk in buried
gro ups
h a s
lo ng
been
reco gnized ,
but
h a s
o nly recently
been
bro ugh t to geth er by Ma nning (1972).
Silver
pla te
a nd
jewellery
fo rm a n
im po rta nt a s pect
o f h o a rd s fro m th e
public po int
o f
view,
a nd th es e
types
o f
h o a rd h a ve been s um m a rized
by
Kent a nd Pa inter
(1977)
a nd Jo h ns a nd Po tter
(1983).
Lo wer d o wn th e s ca le a re h o a rd s o f bro nze ves s els
(Kennett 1969)
a nd
pewter (Peel
1967;
Wed la ke
1958)
wh ile
po ttery
is s eld o m d es cribed a s h o a rd ed . Ca ch es o f bo th
po ttery
a nd a nim a l bo nes a re
us ua lly
d es cribed a s
'rubbis h ',
d is ca rd ed
s urplus ,
o r refus e.
Th us a
gro up
o f fine
po ttery
in th e d itch o f th e ?fo rt a t Cirences ter,
Glo uces ters h ire,
is
ta ken to be no t a
purpo s eful h o a rd ing
o f fine ves s els , but th e fina l
d is po s a l
o f
a rm y
s urplus (Wa ch er
a nd McWh irr
1982:133-42).
Fro m th e s a m e s ite in Cirences ter co m e
ca ch es o f a nim a l bo nes ,
th a t
is , pits
filled with
no th ing
but a nim a l
bo ne,
but th es e a re
ta ken to co nta in refus e fro m a m ea t m a rket
(Wa ch er
1962:9). Gro ups o f buried wo o d en
o bjects
a re
ra re,
but th is is
pres um a bly
beca us e wo o d
d eco m po s es ea s ily
ra th er th a n
a ny
relucta nce o n th e
pa rt
o f d evo tees to h o no ur th e
go d s
in wo o d .
Gro ups o f o bjects in
m a ny
d ifferent wells a nd
pits
a t th e fo rt o f News tea d
(Curle 1911),
in th e Sco ttis h
bo rd ers ,
a re ta ken to be evid ence o f rubbis h s urviva l ra th er th a n wo o d en
o fferings .
Oth er
o rga nic
m a teria ls s h a re th e s a m e fa te. It
m igh t
be
o bjected
th a t no o ne wo uld
bury
gro ups
o f
o rga nic o bjects
even a s vo tive
d epo s its
beca us e
th ey
wo uld be kno wn to be
s ubject
to
d eca y.
Th e
pla tters
in cem eteries
co nta ining
th e rem a ins o f ch ickens
(e.g.
Cla rke 1979: 239
ff.)
wa rn th a t th is
a rgum ent
is no t s o und , fo r it wo uld be d ifficult to
bury
a
fully
a rticula ted bird s keleto n
to ta lly s tripped
o f
fles h ,
a nd th e
a s s um ptio n
s h o uld
pro ba bly
be th a t fo o d wa s buried .
Wh ile th e
lis ting
o f d ifferent
types
o f m a teria l h o a rd
m a y
be fo und
us eful,
th e fa ilure
to
d is tinguis h
between h o a rd s buried fo r th e
go o d
o f th e burier,
a nd h o a rd s buried fo r
th e
go o d
o f a th ird
pa rty,
s uch a s th e
go d s , m a y
be fo und
irrita ting.
Th ere is
clea rly
a
d ifference between a h o a rd o f s ilver co ins buried
by
a s o ld ier
go ing
into ba ttle wh o
h o pes
to return next week to co llect th em , a nd th e
pres enta tio n
in th e ea rth to Cernunno s o f a
co o ked ch icken. Th is is true
o nly
wh en we kno w, o r th ink we kno w, th e circum s ta nces
a nd h ence th e
purpo s e
o f th e
'h o a rd ',
a nd it is
pa rt
o f
m y
th es is th a t s uch -
kno wled ge
is
ra re a nd
a ccid enta l, a nd th erefo re a n
im ped im ent
to cla s s ifica tio n. Perh a ps ,
a t th is
s ta ge,
it wo uld
h elp
to lo o k a t a s m a ll num ber o f
types
o f h o a rd in o rd er to s et o ut s o m e
po s itive
id ea s fo r d is cus s io n.
Interpreting
R o m a n h o a rd s 263
Ho a rd s o f
go ld ,
o r
s ilver,
o r
jewellery,
o r a m ixture o f
a ny
o f th es e
m a teria ls ,
fo rm a
very
clea r end o f th e
s pectrum
o f va lue. Wh a tever th e m o tive o f th e
d epo s ito r
th e
o bjects
d epo s ited
wo uld m a inta in th eir va lue in
a ny s o ciety,
o r
s equence
o f
s o cieties ,
kno wn to
us in wes tern
Euro pe.
No o ne h a s
yet pro d uced
a n o cca s io n o n wh ich
go ld
o r s ilver o r th e
co m m o nly
ca lled
precio us
s to nes
a ppea r
to h a ve been
d eva lued , a nd ,
wh ere we kno w o f
th e a ttitud e o f
s o ciety
fro m written
s o urces ,
s uch a s th e R o m a n
em pire,
th ere s eem s to
be a
fa irly
co ns ta nt level o f va lue a tta ch ed to th e
precio us
m eta ls . Th is m a kes bullio n a
likely o bject
fo r
d epo s itio n,
a nd th a t
d epo s itio n m a y
be no m o re th a n s a fe
keeping.
In
fa ct if th ere a re no
litera ry interferences ,
o r
a rch a eo lo gica l d is tra ctio ns ,
h o a rd s o f
go ld
o r
s ilver
o bjects
a nd
jewellery
a re
inva ria bly interpreted
a s va lua bles buried
by
th e o wner
with th e intent to reco ver th em . Th e Mild enh a ll trea s ure in Brita in
(Pa inter 1977)
a nd
th e
Ka is era ugs t
trea s ure in Switzerla nd
(Ca h n
a nd Ka ufm a nn-Heinim a nn
1984)
a re
go o d
exa m ples
o f th is
type.
Th e
o nly interpreta tio ns
s o fa r a d va nced h a ve co m e fro m a
co njunctio n
o f eith er na m es s cra tch ed o n th e
ves s els ,
co rrela ted with
h is to rica lly
reco rd ed
pers o ns , o r,
in th e ca s e o f
Ka is era ugs t,
fro m th e d a te o f th e co ins wh ich fo rm
pa rt
o f th e
h o a rd ,
m a tch ed with th e
pitifully
few
h is to rica lly
a ttes ted events o f th e tim e.
Fo r
Brita in,
th e Th etfo rd trea s ure
(Jo h ns
a nd Po tter
1983)
is a
go o d exa m ple
o f a
gro up
o f
pa ga n o bjects (s ee
co ver o f th is
is s ue),
wh ile th e Wa ter Newto n trea s ure
(Pa inter
1976)
is a ra re
exa m ple
o f a
gro up
o f Ch ris tia n
o bjects .
It m us t
a ga in
be
em ph a s ized
th a t
th e
a d jectives pa ga n
a nd Ch ris tia n co m e
d irectly
fro m
ins criptio ns
a nd
co m m o nly
reco gnized
letter
s ym bo ls
s uch a s th e ch i-rh o . In th e ca s e o f
Th etfo rd ,
interpreta tio n
co m es fro m th e na m e o f th e
d eity Fa unus ;
th e Wa ter Newto n
interpreta tio n d epend s
d irectly
o n th e
pres ence
o f th e Greek letters ch i a nd rh o
fo rm ing
th e firs t two letters o f
th e na m e o f Ch ris t in
Greek, to geth er
with th e letters
a lph a
a nd
o m ega ,
th e
beginning
a nd th e end . With o ut th es e fea tures ,
a nd a s s o cia ted
ins criptio ns ,
it wo uld h a ve been
a ca d em ica lly im po s s ible
to
s ugges t
th a t th e trea s ure wa s o f Ch ris tia n
o rigin, es pecia lly
s ince s o m e
o bjects
s uch a s th e s ilver a nd
gild ed
lea ves a re s o well kno wn a s
o bjects
fro m
pa ga n
co ntexts . At th is tim e in th e fo urth
century
AD even wh en th e id entifica tio n o f
figures
a nd s cenes
engra ved
o n s ilver, o r in
a ny
o th er fo rm o f a rt, is
crys ta l
clea r th is will
no t
give unequivo ca l
a ttributio n eith er to
pa ga n
o r Ch ris tia n
o rigins
fo r th ere were
m a ny
s cenes a nd
pers o ns
co m m o n to bo th . I m entio n th is to a vo id
a ny s ugges tio n
th a t th e
interpreta tio ns Ch ris tia n,
o r
pa ga n, m igh t
be m a d e with o ut written s o urces
s im ply by
th e
co rrela tio n o f certa in
uninterpreted
s cenes with o ne
type
o f h o a rd o r th e o th er.
Th es e find s h a ve been d es cribed a s h o a rd s beca us e it is a s s um ed th a t
th ey
were buried
by
d evo tees wh o intend ed to reco ver th em ra th er th a n
by
d evo tees
giving s o m eth ing
fo r
ever to th e
go d s .
Cult
d epo s its
ca n h o wever be
precio us ,
o r
perh a ps
we s h o uld
s a y
th a t
d epo s its
o f
precio us o bjects
ca n be
interpreted
a s cultic. Th e s tructure
interpreted by
a na lo gy
a s a
tem ple
o n
Ha yling Is la nd , Ha m ps h ire (Do wney,
King
a nd So ffe
1980),
co nta ined a num ber o f co in find s , s o m e o f s ilver a nd
go ld ,
a nd it is
a ccepted
th a t th es e
were fo und beca us e
th ey
were o ffered to th e
go d s
a nd never reco vered . In
d ea ling
with
th e co ins fro m th e
tem ple
a t
Uley, Glo uces ters h ire,
I referred to th e
la rge
num ber o f
co ins o f th e
perio d
350 to 360 a s a
po s s ible
s ca ttered h o a rd
(R eece 1980)
beca us e
th ey
were fo und a ll o ver th e s ite a nd in
m a ny
d ifferent
d epo s its .
Beca us e th eir
o rigina l
co ntext
is unkno wn it is
im po s s ible
to
jud ge
wh eth er th is is th e
o ffering
o f a d evo tee to th e
go d ,
in th is ca s e
pro ba bly s a fely Mercury,
a t a
pea k perio d
o f
po pula rity
o f th e s h rine,
o r
264 R ich a rd R eece
(co m pletely d ifferent)
wh eth er
'Co vd o b th e Brito n ch o s e th e
tem po ra rily
d es erted s ite to
bury
h is
ra pid ly-beco m ing-wo rth les s
h o a rd o f
co pied
co ins '
(R eece 1980:126). Uley
(Ellis o n 1980)
is a ls o th e s ite o f th e
find ing
o f a ca ch e o f ro lled lea d s h eets a few inch es
s qua re.
If
th ey
h a d no t been unro lled a nd
rea d ,
o r if o th ers were no t
kno wn, th ey
wo uld
h a ve s eem ed to be a
clea rly
a s s o cia ted
gro up
o f
o bjects o nly d is pers ed by
th e
clea ring
o ut
o r d es tructio n o f th e
tem ple.
As
clea r, s im ple,
curs es
th ey
a re no t d es cribed a s a h o a rd
beca us e we kno w th e
pro ces s by
wh ich
th ey
ca m e
to geth er.
Turning
to
o bjects
m a d e o f iro n wh ich a re fo und
to geth er
in
gro ups
th e
s ubject
is
o nly
s ligh tly
les s co nfus ed . Th e find wh ich
ca ugh t
th e
public im a gina tio n
wa s th e
grea t
ca ch e
o f ten to ns o f na ils a nd nine
wh eel-tyres , to geth er
with o ne
d o o r-pivo t bind ing,
fo und
buried a nd s ea led in a
pit
in th e fo rtres s a t
Inch tuth il,
Perth s h ire. Th e
find ,
wh ich is
referred to in th e
publis h ed repo rt
a s a h o a rd
(Ma nning 1985),
h a s
a lwa ys
been
interpreted
a s current s to ck a nd th e
pro d uce
o f ca reful d em o litio n co ncea led in a
pit
to
prevent find ing
a nd us e
by
a nti-R o m a n na tives a fter th e R o m a n with d ra wa l. As
Ma nning's s urvey
o f o th er iro nwo rk h o a rd s s h o w
(Ma nning 1972) interpreta tio n
is
us ua lly
no t s uch a
s im ple
m a tter. Th e h o a rd s wh ich h e lis ts co ntinue fro m th e la te Iro n
Age
in Brita in
up
to th e la ter fo urth
century.
Th e ea rlier h o a rd s includ e
o bjects
kno wn a s
currency ba rs , lo ng s trips
o f iro n o f d im ens io ns s im ila r to s wo rd
bla d es ,
a nd th is
im m ed ia tely
ta kes us ba ck into th e rea lm o f eco no m ic va lue ra th er th a n th e
m ilita ry
exped iency
o f Inch tuth il. Th e
d es criptio n
o f th es e ba rs a s
currency
ba rs
d epend s
o n th e
us ua l a d m ixture o f o ne
litera ry
reference with ra th er circula r
rea s o ning
to th e effect th a t
th e h o a rd s wo uld no t h a ve been buried if
th ey
were no t
va lua ble,
th erefo re th e ba rs
repres ent
va lue. La ter h o a rd s co nta in num bers o f iro n
to o ls , o cca s io na lly a rm o ur, a nd
s o m etim es ves s els s uch a s ca uld ro ns . So m e a re a s s o cia ted with
d epo s its
in
wa ter, th o ugh
wh eth er th o s e fo und in wells s h o uld be cla s s ed a s wa ter
d epo s its
ra th er th a n h o a rd s in
co nvenient h o les is
im po s s ible
to d ecid e. Th e m o s t rem a rka ble fea ture o f th es e find s
wh ich
o nly em erged
with
Ma nning's s tud y
is a fa cto r wh ich h a s no t s o fa r been
m entio ned , th a t o f d is tributio n. Iro nwo rk h o a rd s a re s een to be d is tributed in th e ea rlier
perio d
fro m th e
regio n
o f Ha d ria n's Wa ll no rth to Inch tuth il a nd in th e a rea o f Brita in
s o uth o f a line fro m th e Severn to th e Wa s h ; Iro n
Age
h o a rd s fo llo w th e s o uth ern
d is tributio n with o utliers o n
Angles ey
a nd
jus t
s o uth o f th e Hum ber; a nd th e la ter
h o a rd s , a ga in
with o ne o r two
exceptio ns ,
fa ll s o uth o f th e Severn-Wa s h line. Th is
brings
o ut a
co m pletely
new fa cet o f th e
s ubject,
fo r, wh ile o ne h o a rd ca n be exa m ined a nd
expla ined quite co nvincingly
in is o la tio n, its
interpreta tio n m igh t
need to
ch a nge
in th e
ligh t
o f
o th er, s im ila r h o a rd s .
Th us ,
wh ile th e Inch tuth il h o a rd ca n be
co nvincingly
expla ined
o n th e m o d el o f d em o litio n a nd
pra ctica l co ncea lm ent, th e h o a rd d o es fit into a
pa ttern
o f
d epo s its
in no rth Brita in a nd th e s o uth , but a bs ent in between. Such no n-
ra nd o m
s pa cing
invites co m m ent, es pecia lly a s , a t
pres ent,
it fa ils to fit in with
a ny
o th er
kno wn
pa tterns
o r
h a bits ,
reco rd ed o r o bs erved . It a llo ws rea s o na ble ta lk o f
ritua l, if,
o f
co urs e, ta lk a bo ut ritua l ca n ever be ra tio na l o r rea s o na ble.
I h a ve left co in h o a rd s to th e end beca us e, a lth o ugh th ey ca nno t be us ed to
d em o ns tra te
m a ny
o f th e
po ints m a d e, th ey
a re
by
fa r th e m o s t co m m o n type o f R o m a n
h o a rd a nd I h a ve h a d m o re to d o with th em th a n o th er
types
o f h o a rd . Th e
pro blem s o f
d ifferentia ting
between a vo tive
d epo s it
a nd a h o a rd wh ich th e d epo s ito r
intend s to
reco ver h a ve been m entio ned a nd th is ca n be d ea lt with
briefly
h ere. Go o d
exa m ples o f
Interpreting
R o m a n h o a rd s 265
vo tive
d epo s its
a re kno wn
principa lly
fro m wa ter co ntexts
(Co ventina 's
Well a nd
Ba th ),
a nd
a ga in,
th e
rea s o ning m a y
in s o m e ca s es be circula r. Th e find s fro m Co ventina 's
Well,
a t
Ca rra wburgh
o n Ha d ria n's
Wa ll,
h a ve been kno wn fo r s o m e tim e
a lth o ugh th ey
h a ve
o nly
been
recently publis h ed
in d eta il
(Alla s o n-Jo nes
a nd
McKa y 1985).
In num ber th e
m o s t co m m o n find s fro m th e well a re
co ins ,
but th ere were
m a ny
o th er
types
o f
o bject
includ ing
th e s kull o f a m a ture fem a le h um a n a nd two incens e
burners ,
o ne
bea ring
th e
na m e Co vetina
(s ic)
wh ich rela tes th em to th e o th er
ins criptio ns
a nd ca rved s to nes .
After s o m e d is cus s io n
McKa y prefers
to
rega rd
a
m a jo r po rtio n
o f th e co ins a s a h o a rd
d epo s ited pres um a bly
a t o ne
m o m ent,
but a s no d irect info rm a tio n o n th e
o rigina l
d is po s itio n
o f th e find is a va ila ble it is
im po s s ible
to d ecid e between th is
interpreta tio n
a nd th e a lterna tive o f a
perio d
o f intens e co in
d epo s itio n
in th e
well,
fo llo wed
by
a
s la cker
perio d
o f d evo tio n. Th e recent exca va tio n o f th e s h rine o f th e
tem ple
o f Sulis
Minerva a t
Ba th , So m ers et,
h a s no t
yet
been
fully publis h ed ,
but Wa lker's
s tud y
o f th e
co ins fro m th e
s pring
will be a
m a jo r
a d d itio n to th e
s tud y
o f co in
find s ,
perh a ps
m o re to
ritua l
d epo s its
ra th er th a n ins ta nt h o a rd s
(fo rth co m ing, 1988).
Th e
genera l po int
to
em erge
fro m th es e d eta ils is th e
d ifficulty
o f
d ecid ing
between
perio d s
o f intens e
d epo s itio n
o f
co ins ,
o ne
by
o ne in a s h rine o r
po o l (a s ,
in m o d ern
term s ,
a
fo unta in),
a nd
th e ins ta nt
d epo s itio n
o f a h o a rd o f
va riega ted
co ins a s a
s ingle o ffering
to th e
go d s .
In
th e ca s e o f R o m a n co ins we h a ve a
s equence
o f a rtifa cts wh ich ca n be d a ted s o m etim es to
a m a tter o f m o nth s a nd rela ted to a
unique po int
o f
m a nufa cture;
with th is
kno wled ge
we
co uld
d is tinguis h
between a
gro up
o f o ne th o us a nd
o bjects
a ll m a d e in th e s a m e
pla ce
o n
th e s a m e
d a y,
a nd a no th er
gro up
o f a th o us a nd
o bjects
o f
equa l
va lue, us e, m ea ning
a nd
a ppea ra nce
wh o s e m a nufa cture wa s
s prea d
o ver s evera l
yea rs .
Wh en th e
o bjects
were a ll
m inted in R o m e th e ch a nces o f o ne th o us a nd co ins a ll s truck in th e s a m e
d a y
fro m th e
s a m e d ies
turning up
in a
d epo s it
in Brita in a s a res ult o f a s eries o f events o r d evo tio ns is
negligible
a nd we co uld ta ke th is a s evid ence o f th e
d epo s itio n
o f a h o a rd o r
gro up
o f
co ins a t o ne m o m ent.
Unfo rtuna tely,
th is h a s never
yet
been fo und fo r th e
gro ups
o f
co ins kno wn, even fro m 'ritua l'
d epo s its ,
a re th e m a teria l wh ich wo uld be co llected
to geth er
in a
ba g
o r
purs e
o r
m o ney-bo x
o ver a s h o rt
perio d
o f tim e. Such
gro ups
co uld
be co llected o ver tim e a nd
d epo s ited ins ta ntly,
o r
d epo s ited th ro ugh
tim e a s
th ey
ca m e to
h a nd .
Th e extrem e
id entifia bility
o f R o m a n co ins , th e
wa y
th a t
th ey
ca n be
pla ced
in s uch a
certa in
s equence,
a nd th e
wa y
th a t
th ey
ca n be tra ced ba ck to a
po int
o f
o rigin,
m ea ns
th a t m o re id ea s ca n
pro ba bly
be tes ted o n h o a rd s o f R o m a n co ins th a n o n
a ny
o th er
type
o f h o a rd . Text-bo o ks
a lwa ys
d ivid e co in h o a rd s into a t lea s t
s a vings
h o a rd s a nd d is a s ter
h o a rd s a nd o ften
a ttem pt
a m uch finer s ub-d ivis io n, yet
d eta iled
s tud y
o f th e
m a ke-up
o f
m a ny
d ifferent h o a rd s revea ls a rem a rka ble
s im ila rity
a nd no evid ence fo r clea r
s ubd ivis io n
(R eece
1987: ch .
4).
All th e evid ence to d a te
s ugges ts
th a t th e
m a jo rity
o f
co in h o a rd s a re 'th e co ntents o f a m a n's
po cket
o r
purs e
a t a
given tim e,
fro zen
(a s
it
were)
into
im m o bility
fo r o ur
leis urely ins pectio n' (R o berts o n
1956:268
ff.).
Th is m ea ns
th a t
a ny
o ne h o a rd ,
d ivo rced fro m th e
legend s
o f th e co ins wh ich fo rm
it,
a nd d ivo rced
fro m th e
a rch a eo lo gica l
info rm a tio n wh ich , o cca s io na lly,
s urro und s its
find ing,
ca n
give
little o r no info rm a tio n o n th e
pro ces s
o f fo rm a tio n a nd
d epo s itio n.
A co in h o a rd a s s uch
ca nno t info rm us wh eth er it wa s never reco vered fo r d ra m a tic rea s o ns linked to
grea t
h is to rica l events ,
o r
s illy
events linked to no m o re th a n d o m es tic d ra m a s . Th us ,
th e
266 R ich a rd R eece
h o a rd will be th e s a m e wh eth er its o wners d ied 'a t th e
cro s s -ro a d s ,
th eir h ea rts to rn fro m
th eir
twitch ing
bo d ies to
pro vid e
a wa rm s na ck fo r
ra id ing
Sa xo n
pira tes '
o r wh eth er
th ey
returned h o m e a fter
pla cing
th e
po t
a d efinite num ber o f
pa ces
fro m th e bla s ted o a k a nd
th en h a d a ll m em o ries era s ed
by
'a
ja r
o f
po tent
m ea d a nd a n
evening s pent
o n bets a s to
h o w fa r a
pet h ed geh o g
co uld cra wl'. Th es e a lterna tives I h a ve d es cribed a s th e d ilem m a
o f 'Hea rts a nd
Hed geh o gs ' (R eece, repla ced 1987),
but
th ey
h a ve been
rejected
a s
unwo rth y
o f s erio us
publica tio n.
Th e cens o rs h a ve m is s ed th e
po int
-
th a t it is
o nly
by
co ns id ering s illy exa m ples
wh ich a re
to ta lly
co ns is tent with th e evid ence th a t we ca n
rea lly
und ers ta nd
jus t
h o w lim ited o ur evid ence
is ,
a nd h o w m ute.
If we m o ve o n to co in
legend s
a nd d eta ils o f
h o a rd s ,
th en s o m e excellent
a ttem pts
a t
interpreta tio n
h a ve been m a d e. Firs t
pla ce
m us t
go
to th e
s uperb
wo rk o f Ba s tien a nd
Metzger (1977)
in th eir
d es criptio n
a nd d is cus s io n o f th e h o a rd o f co ins a nd m eta lwo rk
fo und a t
Bea ura ins ,
nea r Arra s in no rth ern
Fra nce,
a nd o ften kno wn a s th e Arra s
Ho a rd .
Ma ny
o f th e co ins in th e h o a rd were o f
go ld
a nd h a d been s truck fro m th e s a m e
d ies ,
s o th a t it is m o s t
unlikely
th a t
th ey
h a d been in circula tio n s ince
th ey
h a d been
m inted .
Ho wever,
th es e were no t
jus t
th e us ua l
go ld d eno m ina tio ns ,
but o ften
m ultiples
o f no rm a l co ins s truck fo r
s pecia l
o cca s io ns a nd
a nnivers a ries ,
a nd wh ile th e la ter o nes
were s truck a t wes tern m ints
a ppro pria te
to th e wes tern
find -s po t,
th e ea rlier co ins were
s truck in th e ea s t. Such
la rge go ld
co ins were
us ua lly
h a nd ed o ut
by h igh
o fficia ls ,
o r th e
em pero r h im s elf,
a nd fro m a d eta iled d is cus s io n o f a ll th es e
po ints
Ba s tien wa s a ble to
s ugges t
th e ca reer s tructure o f th e
recipient,
wh o
m a y (o r m a y
no t)
h a ve been th e
d epo s ito r, ris ing th ro ugh
tim e in th e
im peria l s ervice, tra ns ferring
fro m o ne
pa rt
o f th e
em pire
to a no th er with h is
im peria l m a s ter, a nd
perh a ps rea ch ing
th e
pea k
o f h is ca reer
with th e
reco nques t
o f Brita in in 296. Ba s tien is even a ble to co ntra s t a s m a ll h o a rd o f
s eco nd -century
d ena rii o f
s ilver,
o ut o f
pla ce
in a h o a rd o f th e
ea rly 300s ,
with a s im ila r
h o a rd in th e buria l o f th e Fra nkis h
king Ch ild eric, a nd s o even m o re o ut o f
pla ce
in th e
la ter fifth
century.
He s ees th es e two h o a rd s o f
s eco nd -century
s ilver co ins a s Germ a n:
Ch ild eric's h o a rd h a d been
pa s s ed
d o wn in th e Germ a nic
fa m ily
s ince th e fo rm a tio n o f
th e h o a rd in Free
Germ a ny
in th e s eco nd
century
fro m R o m a n co ins wh ich cro s s ed th e
fro ntier in no rm a l tra d e, wh ile th e Arra s d ena rii h a d been
ca ptured
ba ck in R o m a n
victo ries o ver th e Germ a ns in th e la te 290s a nd h a nd ed o ut to
h igh
o fficia ls a s a s h a re o f
bo o ty.
Wh a t m a tters h ere is no t th e d eta iled
interpreta tio n, th o ugh
I h a ve
given
th a t in
o utline to
s ugges t
h o w m uch ca n be
ga ined
fro m a
h o a rd ,
but th e intrica te d eta il into
wh ich it is
neces s a ry
to
go
in o rd er to extra ct s uch info rm a tio n. And a ll th is co m es fro m
written
s o urces , legend s
o n
co in, m int-m a rks , a nd h is to rica l s o urces . Th e h o a rd its elf a s
s uch ca nno t even tell us wh o buried it, fo r it co uld h a ve been s to len fro m its
o wner,
wh o
co uld even h a ve s a t in
jud gem ent
o n th e th ief a nd s entenced h im to
d ea th ,
s o
a liena ting
h im s elf fo r ever fro m h is h o a rd ; no r ca n it
give
us
a ny
id ea o f th e
circum s ta nces , in
h um a n a nd
co nceptua l term s , s urro und ing
th e buria l.
Th is d eta iled
s ch o la rs h ip
is a fa r
cry
fro m ea rlier
a ttem pts
to
plo t
th e d is tributio n o f
co in h o a rd s o n a
m a p,
to jo in
up
th e
po ints ,
a nd th en to us e th e line a s a
puta tive
ro ute
fo r ba rba ria n inva s io ns into th e R o m a n
em pire
in th e th ird
century.
On th is
type
o f
s tud y
I h a ve tried to s et o ut s o m e ba s ic rules a nd
guid elines ,
a nd wh ere th es e, o r s im ila r
po ints ,
h a ve been
res pected ,
h is to rica l
interpreta tio ns m igh t
be d ra wn fro m
find -s po ts
a nd
d is tributio n
m a ps (R eece 1981).
It is a n
interes ting
co m m ent o n
a rch a eo lo gica l
m eth o d
Interpreting
R o m a n h o a rd s 267
in Brita in th a t th e id ea o f
ca libra ting
R o m a n co in
h o a rd s ,
o r o f
tes ting
wh eth er tim es o f
s tres s lea d to
grea ter
fa ilure to reco ver co in
h o a rd s , o nly h a ppened
in 1974 wh en Jo h n
Kent exa m ined h o a rd s in Brita in buried
d uring
th e Civil Wa r o f 1643-9 a nd in th e
century befo re,
a nd h a lf
century
a fter
(Kent 1974).1
Th e res ult o f th is
s tud y
wa s a clea r
d em o ns tra tio n th a t in th is o ne
ins ta nce,
wh en bo th
m ilita ry
co nd itio ns a nd th e num ber o f
unreco vered co in h o a rd s were
pa rtly
a va ila ble,
th e s ix
yea rs
o f s tres s d id
pro d uce
a ris e in
th e level o f unreco vered h o a rd s . Th is
brings
in wh a t s h o uld
perh a ps
be a fina l
nega tive
po int,
fo r th e s tres s o n unreco vered co in h o a rd s
po ints
o ut th a t th is m a teria l m us t
s urely
be th e
o nly a rch a eo lo gica l
m a teria l wh ere fa ilures
o nly
a re a va ila ble fo r
s tud y.
Since it
wa s th e intentio n in m o s t ca s es to reco ver h o a rd s we ca nno t kno w
a nyth ing d irectly
a bo ut th o s e wh ich were
s ucces s ful;
it is a s if we h a d to
s tud y
th e R o m a n
po ttery ind us try
fro m wa s ter
h ea ps
-
a
very s pecia lized
fo rm o f h o a rd -- a lo ne.
As th is is intend ed to be a d is cus s io n o f s elected
po ints giving
ris e to id ea s o n
h o a rd ing
a nd buria l o f
go o d s
in th e R o m a n
perio d
I will end
by s ugges ting
s o m e a venues fo r th e
furth er
s tud y
o f co in
d epo s its .
Kent
(1974)
a nd R o berts o n
(1974)
h a ve bo th d is cus s ed
a s pects
o f co in
h o a rd s ,
a nd th is d is cus s io n h a s been furth ered
by Ca s ey (1986).
Fo r th o s e
wh o wa nt to us e th es e find s a s
exa m ples
o f well-d a ted
a rtefa cts ,
in s o m e ca s es well
publis h ed
in th eir
geo gra ph ica l
co ntexts ,
th ere is no
s im ple em pire-wid e guid e.
Fo r
Brita in,
Pro fes s o r Anne R o berts o n is
bringing
h er lifetim e's
s tud y
to
co m pletio n
a nd it is
to be
h o ped
th a t th is will s o o n be
publis h ed .
Fo r
Fra nce,
a new
Co rpus
d es tres o rs
m o neta ires
a ntiques
d e la Fra nce h a s no w rea ch ed vo lum e
4,
a nd th is
pro vid es
a n
excellent co ver a t a
h igh
s ta nd a rd
(Pa ris ,
So ciete d e
Num is m a tique).
Fo r
Germ a ny,
th e
vo lum es o f Die Fund m iinzen d er ro m is ch en Zeit in Deuts ch la nd a re m o re th a n h a lf
wa y
in th eir
grea t co vera ge
o f
every
co in a nd co in-h o a rd fo und in
Germ a ny,
a nd s im ila r
vo lum es a re a va ila ble fo r
Luxem bo urg
a nd
pa rts
o f Aus tria .
Jugo s la via
a nd
s urro und ing
a rea s a re s erved
by
Mirnik's vo lum e o f co in h o a rd s in
Jugo s la via (1981)
a nd th e wo rk o f
Ko s o n
m o neta ry
circula tio n in Slo venia a nd th e s o uth -ea s tern
Alps (1986).
Th ere a re o f
co urs e
m a ny
o th er s uch
s tud ies ,
but th is is no t th e
pla ce
fo r a n
a ttem pt
a t a n exh a us tive
lis t,
ra th er a
s ugges tio n
o f wh a t is a va ila ble.
10.viii.1987 Ins titute
o f
Arch a eo lo gy
Univers ity Co llege
Lo nd o n
No te
1 Wils o n
(1968: fig. 2)
h a d ea rlier d em o ns tra ted fo r th e
Viking Age
in
Engla nd
th a t th ere
exis ted a
rela tio ns h ip
between increa s ed s tres s a nd fa ilure to reco ver co in h o a rd s
d uring
th e
perio d
830 to
940, pea king
869-78 with th e a ctivities o f th e 'Grea t
Arm y'
o f Da nes
(ed .).
R eferences
Alla s o n-Jo nes ,
L. a nd
McKa y,
B. 1985. Co ventina 's Well. Ch es ters Mus eum : Trus tees o f th e
Cla yto n
Co llectio n.
268 R ich a rd R eece
Ba s tien,
P. a nd
Metzger,
C. 1977. Le tres o r d e Bea ura ins
(d it d 'Arra s ).
Mem o ires d e la
Co m m is s io n
D6pa rtem enta le
d es Mo num ents
His to riques
d u Pa s d e Ca la is
XVII,
Arra s .
Ca h n,
H. a nd Ka ufm a nn
Heinim a nn,
A.
(ed s )
1984. Der
s pitro m is ch e
Silbers ch a tz vo n Ka is er-
a ugs t.
Ba s ler
Beitra ge
zur Ur- und
Frfih ges ch ich te
Ba nd
9,
Ba s le.
Ca s ey,
J. 1986.
Und ers ta nd ing
Ancient Co ins . Lo nd o n: Ba ts fo rd .
Ca s ey,
J. a nd
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Interpreting
R o m a n h o a rd s
Gro ups
o f
o bjects
fo und
to geth er
in R o m a n co ntexts
pro vid e
a
ra nge
o f
o ppo rtunities
fo r
interpreta tio n
no t a va ila ble in ea rlier
perio d s .
Th e
o bjects
ca n o ften be well d a ted a nd
put
in a
d efinite
s equence
a nd s im ila r
gro ups m a y
well be a va ila ble fo r
co m pa ris o n
o ver th e wh o le a rea o f
th e R o m a n
em pire.
Wh en th e
co m pa ra tive
m a teria l
pro vid ed by
th e written s o urces is a d d ed th e
o ppo rtunities
fo r
interpreta tio n m ultiply,
but th e
pro blem s
wh ich a ris e beco m e m o re intens e a nd
certa inty
is h a rd er to a ch ieve.
Gro ups
o f
o bjects
o f
m a ny,
o r
m o s t,
m a teria ls h a ve been fo und in
th e R o m a n
perio d ,
but
o nly
s o m e
gro ups
a re referred to a s
h o a rd s , bringing
to th e fo re th e
pro blem s
o f d efinitio n
wh ich ,
a t th is
perio d , m a y rea lis tica lly h inge
in s o m e ca s es o n th e m o tive o f
th e h o a rd er. A
s um m a ry
o f d ifferent m a teria ls is
a ttem pted
a nd a
very genera l s urvey
o f co in
h o a rd s
a ttem pts
to s h o w th e
po s s ibilities
o f
s tud y
a nd th e
ra nge
o f m a teria l.