Did Coinage Totally Cease When Rome Departed These Shores?

Bronze IssueThe answer to this particular question has been a pet interest of mine for some time. Local copies of coins were made in several stages during the Roman occupation of this island. However, it was what the ‘locals’ did after the Roman administration left that I often wonder about. Historically, trade and just about everything else slowly collapsed when the Romans left. Or was it rather that Roman trade and everything Roman collapsed? Some sort of stability must have survived. No doubt some sections of society quickly adopted the somewhat slacker old ways again, including systems like bartering, rather than continuing to use coins.

In fact, we are historically informed that coins ceased to be used in Britain around about 450 AD and then didn’t reappear until the Thrymsas arrived. I’m not 100% on the dates but over the years I have found many late Roman issues – or at least that’s what I thought they were – illustrating stylistic artwork more akin to Anglo Saxon Thrymsas and Sceattas. One example I found was a small bronze with a crude bust that had a pellet eye, two pellet bubble lips and straw like linear hair – far more suited to a Sceatta bust. Could it be possible that some sections of society maintained the use of small bronze coins from when the Romans departed right up until Thrymsas came across?

That would make these issues early Saxon bronzes that were copying, albeit crudely, earlier Roman die designs. I have some sites where Sceattas are quite common and they are always found in association with these so called late Roman issues that, strangely enough, are usually exactly the same size as the Sceattas. I’m assuming the absence of earlier dated gold Thrymsas merely illustrates that these sites are a bit run of the mill and not high status.

I began thinking about all this as a result of a very small bronze issue I found today as shown; take a close look at that bust style and you’ll see what I mean about its origin. Any opinions would be most welcome.

About Julian Evan-Hart
Julian is from Hertfordshire, England and has always been interested in fossils and antiquities. Julian has written a number of books on metal detecting, and is an avid user of Minelab products.

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