Friday, 25 March 2011

Old Coin Collection Found - under a Road

One news item, just out, for the Coineys. They are so keen to point out that their hobby ('avocation') of collecting dugup ancient coins and artefacts has its roots in Renaissance and Enlightenment antiquarianism. They therefore want to want to establish a position of prestige with regard to archaeology which they see as a younger (daughter) discipline, but also to point out that dugup ancient coins on the market today "could have been" on the market for centuries and not recently looted items. This of course does not take into account three factors, the growth in numbers of collectors in the days when the population of the western world as a whole was much less than today, the growth in popularity of the hobby, and that artefacts have been dropping out of the 'pool' of those available on the market by mechanisms such as donation to public institutions and destruction or loss.

A recent find by archaeologists from West of Scotland Archaeology Service (WoSAS) draws attention to the later mechanism. Five ancient coins were found in archaeological supervision of landscaping works conducted in Port Glasgow, Scotland in redeposited topsoil mixed with hardcore from the adjacent road surface. They were found along a grassed verge during the removal of turf and seem to have been brought to the site with material that was imported onto the site during road construction. We are not told, but I wonder whether these coins were not found during a metal detector survey of this deposit?

A point of interest is a deposit adhering to one side of each of the coins which appears to be glue or resin. This suggests to the excavator that they may have been mounted at some time, which in turn could suggest that they may represent part of a former private antiquity collection. "Two of the coins appear to be very similar, and while one has a resin deposit on the obverse, on the other the resin is on the reverse, suggesting that the intention may have been to display them side-by-side, which would support the interpretation that they form part of a collection". Three of the coins are "ancient Greek" in type, but the other two are Late Roman in type. The coins have a suspicious look to them however, they are of types that should have been struck in silver (and the corrosion products in the photo do not really look like corroded base silver should look). One of the Macedonian ones has what seems to be a casting flash on the edge while the third "Greek" coin has very flat relief undifferentiated from the background and a soapy look typical of the cast fake. It seems that the collector who acquired these items on the antiquities market at some time (we are not told at what date the soil layer was dumped) did not have a very discerning eye.

The excavators suggest it was part of the scattered collection of an "antiquary", but I think the possibility that they formed part of some teaching material used in a local school cannot be ruled out.

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