Connecting Through Coinage : Conference Report

Connecting Through Coinage : Conference Report

 

The ‘Connecting through Coinage’ conference occurred on the 13th of June 2014. It was jointly hosted by York Museums Trust, University of York and Yorkshire Numismatic Society in the fantastic setting of the King’s Manor, York. The event was jointly funded by the above alongside generous grants from the Royal Numismatic Society and British Numismatic Society. Over 100 attendees were treated to two days of talks, delivered by 18 experts, on the theme of ‘Coinage in Yorkshire and the North’.

The first day (Eboracum and beyond) focused upon Roman coinage. In the first session, Rebecca Griffiths and Sam Moorhead spoke about the transformational effects of Portable Antiquities Scheme data for our understanding of Roman Yorkshire and Britain respectively. Rebecca showed the huge numbers of finds from one of the most productive parts of the country and highlighted the dominance of the small late, coins in this distribution. Sam spoke about the differences between metal-detected coins and others, noting that much of it hints at rural activity and that there were far more fake and forgeries in circulation than we might have thought.

Richard Brickstock and Philippa Walton spoke about two different assemblages of coinage. The former spoke about research on coins from York, gathered over many years and 30+ excavations, suggesting that York broadly followed national patterns but that certain areas only saw significant volumes of coinage in the fourth century. The latter spoke about the incredible coins that have been found at Piercebridge, suggesting that certain coins were selected to be thrown into the river as part of a ritual. Julia Farley provided the longer-term perspective, noting regional variation in the Iron Age, particularly between the North East and areas further to the south.

James Gerrard and Rob Collins shifted the focus a little further afield. James concentrated on Roman London and showed that huge numbers of coins could be recovered from urban sites through sieving and metal-detecting, questioning whether we need to take different approaches to coin analysis. Rob considered coins from forts and their relationships with the end of the Empire and early medieval periods. Adrian Marsden was able to offer an interesting take on imitation in the Roman period, drawing a distinction between forgery – created to deceive – and imitation – ‘inspired by’ real coins.

Patrick Ottaway provided the keynote lecture on the Economy and Society in Roman York. This was a survey, drawing upon years of experience working in the city’s archaeology, of Roman York. He considered its origins, buildings, trade, development, burial grounds and production drawing these elements together to paint a vivid picture of the Roman town.

The second day (Early Medieval York and the North) shifted the chronology to the early medieval period. Andrew Woods and Tony Abramson provided a framework for those new to the period. In the case of the former, he focused upon distribution data to show how the use of coinage altered through the period while the latter focused more upon the production of coinage and its relationship to kings and their kingdoms.

Ron Bude and Stewart Lyon focused upon the early medieval kingdom of Northumbria. The former spoke about his work examining the production methods of eighth century silver coinage and what this can tell us about the coins. The latter considered the copper coins of the ninth century – very common finds in large hoards in the area – and how they help to illuminate a period which we know relatively little about. Chris Scull drew more widely upon material with an analysis of silver coins within graves. He drew some fascinating conclusions and was able to make quite clear distinctions, both in terms of chronology and the sex of the person who was buried with coins.

Vikings predominated for much of the afternoon with Jane Kershaw, Megan Gooch and Lauren Proctor each bringing them into discussion. Jane spoke about finds of bullion and weights, questioning how widespread payment in ‘hacksilver’ was in viking Yorkshire. Megan used the coinage to talk about the viking kingdom of York and how far it extended, noting that the mid-tenth century coinage is found quite far from the town. Lauren drew upon PAS data to plot the shifting patterns of coin-use, both in terms of their geography and regularity.

The final address was given by Julian D. Richards who spoke about metal-detector finds in the period 700-1000. He used a number of different examples to highlight the possibilities that large metal-detector surveys can have for our understanding of the past. The talk provoked a number of interested questions about the relationships between universities, museums and metal detectorists.

In sum, the conference proved a success, highlighting the possibilities for the use of coinage in a number of different strands of research. The speakers were of a high standard throughout and cutting edge research was made available to members of the public for free.