Roman Coin Finds in North Leicestershire and Cumbria

Principal investigator: Lewis Batchelor
Level: Masters degree

There have been considerable amounts of work carried out in the past that have focussed on the nature and extent of coinage in Roman Britain. One key trend that has emerged from this research has been the notion that coin usage was at its peak usage during the earlier parts of Roman occupation usually in areas with a high military population. This is a particular feature of frontier regions such as the areas around Hadrian’s wall (Allen et al 2017).

However, as Roman rule was consolidated across the country, coin use in military occupied areas slowly declined, with the economy beginning to boom around rural villa sites and farmsteads instead (Allen et al 2017). There are also other identifiable trends such as the higher percentage of silver denarii that have been found at excavated sites in the north of the country as opposed to further south. It has been suggested that this may have been a result of military occupation in the northern frontier regions and the pay of the soldiers in the form of silver coins going into direct circulation.

Much of this data has been obtained by chiefly looking at excavated sites. These sites provide a relatively small sample size of coin finds to be researched, so some trends may be invisible or under represented. This research will be carried out through the use of Portable Antiquities Scheme data, which is the largest body of archaeological data that has been compiled mainly of the finds of amateur metal detectorists and field walkers in the country. This data covers extremely wide areas in terms of geographical reach, with Roman coins being particularly well represented and recorded on the database.

In terms of the format of the research, it would be beneficial to perform a comparative study of what we know about the extent and nature of Roman coins from excavated sites as compared with the data from the Portable Antiquities scheme database. This would help either confirm the validity of the trends that have already been identified or indeed refute them in some ways. This can only be beneficial to our knowledge of the nature and extent of the use of coins in Roman Britain.

With a limited amount of word space to complete this study, and in the interest of focus, this research will focus specifically on two regions: a frontier area in the north and Leicestershire. Framing the research in this way will allow for both the interrogation of the existing knowledge through the use of the Portable Antiquities Scheme data and also will provide the means for further discussion about regional differences in the nature and use of coins in two areas that were very different throughout Roman Britain (the north was heavily militarised, whereas Leicestershire can be described as part of the central belt of small farmsteads and towns).

Tutors: Colin Haselgrove and Jeremy Taylor (Univ of Leicester)

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