Hoards old and new

Time to make a cup of tea and reflect on what I’ve been doing today…

I recently started work as a post-doctoral researcher on an AHRC funded joint British Museum / Leicester University research project looking at Roman coin hoards. It’s a bit of a change for me from juggling two part-time jobs in the Department of Coins and Medals (cataloguing Greek and Roman coins in the Museum’s collection and dealing with Roman coin hoards going through the Treasure process). I’m enjoying the chance this project presents to take a step back and start to make sense of the data I’ve helped to create over the past few years, although I confess I slightly miss the big piles of corroded coins.

The last corpus of Roman coin hoards was published in 2000 and represented the life’s work of Anne S. Robertson. Since then there has been a steady increase in the number of Roman coin hoards reported as Treasure. The British Museum has a large archive of files containing detailed information on Treasure cases, many of which have not been published in detail. I am collating information for a new database on Roman coin hoards from Britain, starting with Robertson and the data held by the British Museum (some of which is now on the PAS website).

Today I have been sitting in front of a spreadsheet, continuing with the process of cleaning up the data and trying to get it into a consistent format. There are various problems thrown up by the existing record, from practical ones, such as the changes in British parish names and boundaries to more philosophical ones , such as what do we mean by a hoard?

A hoard on the PAS database.

A hoard on the PAS database.

As I go through Robertson’s data, I am increasingly in awe of the amount of work she undertook on this project without the on-line tools we have come to rely on. Web searches, mapping tools, on-line HER records and digitised newspapers mean it is now often easy to access information she gathered the hard way, but the hours she put in visiting museum collections and looking at material are so valuable still. Some of the records are less useful than others (my current favourite account of a hoard is “A cony drawing his yerth betwyxt Folkestan and Hyve did cast up antique mony” (J. Leland, Itinerary (1535-43), VIII, fol. 141)) but I am excited about the depth of contextual information we have even for some early finds. It’s great to be able to get back in touch with my archaeological background again, even if I’m still working indoors on a lovely day!