Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Imperial Portraits from The Lunt Coin Hoard


Few visitors to the Fort appear to pay much attention to the coins found during the excavations of the late 1960s and early 70s. This may be due to shortcomings in the display. The silver coins are to be mounted properly soon – and already have some detailed interpretation in the form of a booklet attached to the cabinet. However, the bronze coins present difficulties. The soil conditions at the Lunt are not kind to copper alloys, and most of the bronzes are in poor condition, corroded by acid attack.

But there are some splendid exceptions – and these are coins from the Lunt Hoard. This small hoard of coins, of both bronze and silver, was found buried close to the position of the Eastern gateway. I say “the position of” because when these coins were deposited, that gateway (now so impressively reconstructed), was no longer there!

The Hoard was buried some 35 years after the fort was abandoned. This is evidenced by the appearance of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan – with the sequence of bronze coins ending c.113 AD.

This all appears straightforward enough, but there is a genuine Mystery here. As Richard Reece commented in the Second Interim Report, dealing with Primary Dating Evidence :

“The hoard is interesting for several reasons. First, it is unusual to get a cache of coins in which all the main denominations are represented, from Denarius to As. Secondly, there is the difference in the date of the last silver and bronze coins (c.87 AD for silver – as against c.113 AD for bronze) for which there is no simple or convincing explanation.”

Very odd indeed!

Among these coins are some wonderful portraits of the emperors from Vespasian to Trajan. These are true portraits – naturalistic in style and pulling no punches. We see the fat, balding Vespasian; the smug smile of Domitian; the elderly eagle-nosed Nerva and the strong martial features of Trajan.

They are impossible to see in the cabinet. Here they are in all their glory!