Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Iceni hypothesis — part five

Iceni gold stater of Antethirig (= "Fit to rule")
The other night, I thought that I should confirm my reading of the Iceni "ANTED types" because I had noticed that Antedios was starting to appear in listings of those coins. No problem, the gold stater on the right is very clear with its legend ANTEÐI. For many years, I have been reading this as Antethirig = "fit to rule", I think it came from Jackson, it is not in Delamarre, but his work is on Gaulish inscriptions anyway, and only includes the British examples that confirm, or vary from, the Gaulish examples. With the silver types, it is clear enough when that part of the legend is visible, although one example had the variant (and more familiar) theta so the monogram would read ANTEƟI. Variants in other names also exist such as ADDE... (Athedomaros), or when the same name might read AÐD. It is easy enough for a die cutter to forget the bar across a D to make it theta, but there is no reason at all for someone to add a bar to an intended letter D.

I also decided to see how the name or title was handled on Dobunni staters and those, too, had a few examples where the bar was missing. The British examples of Ð have a bar that does not cross the upright of the D, but is enclosed within the D as the bar is enclosed on an upper case Ɵ. The name as given on the Dobunni coins is ANTEÐRIG and misses out the I. Sometimes though, they also missed the E, and variants show up for a number of British Celtic names, even within the same issues.

Could the Iceni and the Dobunni Antethirig be the same person? I thought that the first thing to do would be to check the analyses of both the Iceni and the Dobunni. Using a few analyses by Northover and Cowell in BAR 222, I got a surprise: The Dobunni was heavier in gold than the Iceni, which is not surprising, but the silver contents of a Dobunni and an Iceni stater both analyzed by Cowell had exactly the same percentage of silver (16.0%), so the Iceni had a greater percentage of copper. As many types of coins gradually become more debased over time, there is no standard for such issues as a whole, and such debasement often helps in deciding the chronology of the issue.

Although some data had a few typos, etc. I had noticed a general trend among the long-lasting British L types for the types to sort themselves better and group together with like coins when they were sorted by their increases in copper rather than by increases in silver or decreases in gold. One coin had an extraordinarily large amount of copper, because the alloy the moneyer had started with was very high gold and very low silver. He knew that he had to add much more copper, but even after doing so, the gold content was far too high for its place in the chronology. He, apparently, had not added any silver at all. The general theory is that the moneyers used the proportions in the three-part alloys to maintain a gold colour as best they could. British L, however can be gold yellow, brassy, or coppery. The Norfolk wolf staters debase primarily in the addition of silver before they added more and more copper, and the later Snettisham torc hoards do the same thing.

There is something strangely reminiscent of the Durotriges coinage in this, even though their staters copying British A never had that much gold to start with and are called "white gold" because they are mostly silver with only a very small amount of gold in the earlier strikings. Earlier other types from Durotriges territory have more gold, though. Because of the strange metallic connections between the Norfolk wolf staters and the Durotriges coinage, I had imagined that the Iceni Antethirig would also add more silver. Those staters are not thick on the ground in western Canada, so I have never even seen one "in the flesh", and when I was last in England, my attention was on the British L staters.

The other thing that had me wondering about whether the two Antethirigs were the same person was the small ingots that were found at the Dobunni south Worcestershire site. Their analysis percentages gave:

Ag: 43.5; Cu: 15.8;  Sn:  3.7; As: 0.1; Fe: 1.5; Au: 35.3; Se:  0.1

The alloying elements here would not be out of place on a wolf stater, and one (British Ja) stater done by Northover gave Ag: 45.52; Cu: 14.91; Au: 39.44. If the Dobunni metalworker had tried to copy the metal of that particular wolf stater, he probably could not have got the proportions better. As I have owned a few Norfolk wolf staters from the Mossop collection, I am skeptical of the amounts of gold given for those which have been analyzed and I think that they went right down to a Durotriges-like billon and even to copper. The basest are called "cores" and assumed to be contemporary forgeries, but one that I had showed no signs of being a fake, stylistically, and took part in the slight evolution in the design as the rest of them, and it was of metal in very good condition with a smooth patina and no signs of any missing gold foil. Some stater cores are very corroded and it is no surprise that the plating is gone. On silver plated coins, I have often seen a very corroded core with just a couple of bits of silver still hanging on. Besides, some of the last Snettisham torcs are billon.

As I said in a previous post in this series, when Dean sent me the representative collection of the finds (minus the bones), I was expecting the pellets to be related to the ingots and that the pellets would be silver and related to the silver pellets found in other Iceni hoards (although none seem to be have analyzed, so perhaps calling them silver was just a guess).

I remember my apprenticeship at Glenbow Museum: I was cataloging the first part of the Black Watch badge collection and showed the first worksheet to the Lew Burke, my boss. I had described the WW 1 badge as "bronze". Lew said, "So you have had it tested, then?". He drilled into me (he was an ex Sergeant Major) to write "what appears to be..." in all catalogue worksheets. I should have known better, as when I was in the jewellery business and someone wanted something repaired, you described it as "yellow" not "gold". Someone could come in with a gold-filled or plated item that was marked as real gold, and when it came back to them, they could say the gold mount was stolen and it was replaced with a gold filled or gold plated mount. Just saying "yellow" avoids such problems. I dare say very few archaeologists have been jewellers or museum catalogers, so they don't know these things.

Discovering that the "silver" ingots were white gold of the Iceni variety, and the "silver" pellets were "super-potin" was quite the surprise. Nothing was as it seemed to be. The ingots did have a higher percentage of tin than the wolf staters and you also see Durotriges staters with a lot of tin in them, too. You do not see unusually high tin levels in Dobunni gold or silver coins, so they were obviously trying to simulate white gold, although of a far higher level of gold than you could find in the earliest Durotriges "white gold stater". It seemed aimed, deliberately, at the Iceni. The "super-potin" percentages is below:
Cu: 42; Pb: 6.1; Sn: 46.6; As: 0.4; Ti:  0.4%; W:  0.1; Zn:  0.1; Fe:  4.3.
No continental nor Thurrock potin analyzed by Northover in BAR 222 had such high levels of tin. But there was another shock: the Thurrock type that Dean had sent me from the same site contained 52.6% tin! Northover's record tin content was a Zürich type with 40.33% Sn, and his top Thurrock was only 35.55% with the other three running between 17.48 and 18.50%; The highest tin content he analyzed in a British potin, however, was a Takeley specimen at 37.08%. With all of these specimens, I polished the hell out of them at one spot as I wanted no surface enriched results which are useless for studying anything other than surface enrichment, and even then, you would need the interior for comparison. The Thurrock type from the Dobunni site also had the high Co to low Ni ratio typical of earlier British bronze, but at a lower amount because of the high Sn. Neither the pellet nor the ingot had measurable levels of either element. This is not too surprising because of the lower Cu and because the British high Co, low Ni went extinct in about 50 BC. No Potins from Snettisham, Beckford, Takeley, Stansted, or Kelvedon had high Co to low Ni, and the Co content was sometimes just a trace or not measurable in a few of them.

It is common knowledge, in numismatics, for coins to have better metal at places closer to its source. Athenian silver coins were so respected because they had a great silver mine on their doorstep. Coins from areas distant to metal sources have to include seigniorage that allows for the extra cost of obtaining and shipping the metal. We have to ask ourselves, if the Dobunni were manufacturing the Thurrock types because they were the closest to the mine source, were others, further down the trading line, actually recasting Dobunnic-made Thurrocks because they wanted to add more copper as seigniorage, too? The profit emerges from the difference in unit of value and unit of account.The later tin trade must have been quite competitive, and even some faking might have taken place in order to profit even more. This sort of thing, by necessity, would have happened close to the shipping points.

In all of the above, I have given you some clues as to why it might well be possible for the Iceni and Dobunni Antethirigs to have been the same person. There are other reasons, too, that I have left no clues about, but those very familiar with the subject might also see what those are, too. You can find out tomorrow how you did. All of this has to be learned before I can fully explain my hypothesis and potential method for tracking original coin dispersion patterns that seem to be impossible to recover, so it is not just a "Scheherezade compositional device", even though it is still fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment