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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

HOARD OF COINS FOUND ON PITSTONE COMMON, NEAR TRING, 1870


In the spring of the present year some workmen forming a road a few hundred yards to the south of Moneybury Hill, and close by the column erected in honour of the great Duke of Bridgewater, came upon a number of coins, some articles of metal, animal remains, and broken pottery of Roman date, which have been kindly submitted to me for examination by Earl Biownlow, on whose estate they were found. The coins, of which a detailed list is appended, are 116 in number, and range over a considerable period of time, the earliest dating back to the first half of the first century, while the latest come down to about A.d. 270. A halfpenny of William and Mary, the presence of which among the other coins must of course be accidental, is not included in the number above stated.

Of the Roman coins it seems not improbable that there may have been two distinct hoards, the one consisting of the so-called large and middle brass coins, the latest of which may date about A.d. 249, and the other of the small brass coins which belong in part to the period of "the Thirty Tyrants," and range down to about A.d. 270. Among these latter there are no coins of any special interest. Of the others the bulk are much worn by circulation, and are, for the most part, of ordinary types.

There are, however, among them one or two rare coins, of which one, in fair condition, presents a new type of Lucius Verus. There are coins known of this emperor with a similar device and an almost similar legend on the reverse, but struck during a different consulate, and probably relating to a different expedition. These coins have the legend PROFECTIO AVG, and the second and third years of the Tribunician Power and the second consulate of the emperor, and probably refer to the expedition against the Parthians in A.d. 163. The coin now brought to light bears the third consulate, and cannot be earlier than A.d. 167, so that the expedition referred to is probably one of those against the Germans, though, as these were undertaken jointly by Aurelius and Verus, it seems strange that only one emperor should be represented on the reverse.
A curious feature in this hoard is the large proportion of ancient forgeries it contains in the shape of coins cast from genuine originals. Though they were all probably cast at about the same time, the models range from Vespasian to Otacilia Severa, or over a period of about 180 years. Some of them have been moulded from wellpreserved originals, but others from coins much worn by circulation. Among them are reproductions of one or two rare types, and of the interesting coin of Antoninus Pius, with the seated figure of Britannia on the reverse. I have known a few instances of cast coins of this character occurring on sites of Roman occupation, such as Verulam and Richborough.

Besides the Roman coins there is one of considerable interest, as representing our native coinage previous to the occupation of Britain by the conquerors of the world. It is of Cunobeline—the Cymbeline of Shakspere—and though in poor preservation, the name of his father, Tasciovanus, is still legible in theTASCIO on the reverse. A copper coin of Cunobeline of another type was found some years ago at Berkhamsted.1
The other objects found at the same time consist of some small fragments of a thin brass plate, the half of a plain brass ring, a penannular ring of silver wire slightly tapering towards each end, and possibly an earring, and two fibulae or brooches. Of these one with its front plate in the form of a leaf still retains its pin. It is of brass, but has been originally tinned, so that the greater part of its surface has remained bright and uncorroded. The form is rare and more graceful than usual with bowshaped fibulas.

The other brooch is of circular form, about an inch and a quarter in diameter, with a central ornament of glass, rather more than half an inch in diameter. There is a raised rib round the margin of the brooch, and another midway between that and the central socket for the glass, The flat spaces between the ribs are ornamented with indented patterns, formed by means of an 8-shaped punch. The glass is of a dark bottle-green, almost opaque. The part beyond the setting forms a low truncated cone, on the flat face of which has been deeply moulded the form of a bird; but, owing to the part on which was the head having been broken off and lost, it is difficult to say whether it may have been an eagle or a dove. The part which is now hollow was probably at one time filled in with white glass or enamel, which has since decomposed and disappeared. A similar process is in use at the present day for the manufacture of glass buttons and studs, but I do not remember to have seen an example of Roman age. The two brooches may indeed be regarded as the most curious objects in the find, with the exception perhaps of the coin of Lucius Verus.








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