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The oldest Roman coin in Britain

Harborough Museum reports that –

A …hoard of ten gold Iron Age coins was found in 2010 by Steve Bestwick whilst metal detecting on fields near Peatling Magna, in the District of Harborough. They will be displayed permanently at Harborough Museum from Tuesday 17 July 2012.
The coins were probably produced between 60-50 BC in Gallia Belgica, the Latin name for modern north western France and the Low Countries. They show a stylised horse moving right, surrounded by symbols on one side and are blank on the other. These coins are slightly earlier than the majority of the coins in the Hallaton Treasure which is also displayed at Harborough Museum. It is rare to find hoards of early imported coins so far north, others are confined to East Anglia and the South East. Most Gallo-Belgic coins are found in hoards and usually in mint condition.  We think they may have been considered special because they were imported or perhaps they were hoarded because they were better quality gold than local coins.
The silver denarius coin pictured above …was found in one of the entranceway hoards at the Hallaton shrine. It is believed to date to 211 BC making it around 250 years old when it was buried by the Corieltavi tribe in the AD 40s or AD 50s. The front of the coin shows the goddess Roma wearing her characteristic helmet whilst the reverse shows the mythical twins, Castor and Pollux, astride horses galloping towards the right.

The type of coin known as a denarius was first struck in Rome in 211 BC, making the Hallaton coin a very early version. The surface of the coin is worn suggesting it was well used before arriving in Britain and being buried at Hallaton. How the Corieltavi tribe came into possession of this coin either before the Roman invasion of AD 43 or very soon after is a mystery. Did it arrive here through trade or diplomacy before the invasion, or was it brought to Britain by an invading soldier? Either way, it is a very rare find at a Late Iron Age site and suggests the Corieltavi tribe had contact with Rome earlier than previously thought.

The coin above and the Peatling Magna Hoard are on permanent display in the Hallaton Treasure Gallery at Harborough Museum.

More here and here.


August 2012
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