In 2008, during the summer holidays at King’s College London, I was lucky enough to gain an internship at The British Museum identifying and cataloguing the High Weald hoard. The hoard, discovered in East Sussex with the aid of a metal detector, contained 2895 radiate coins dating from AD 215-268. Radiates, or Antoniniani as they are sometimes called, are identified by the radiate crown (crown of sun-rays) worn by the emperors portrayed on the coins. My task was to identify the individual coins using the appropriate catalogues for reference. It was important to note any variations, hybrids/mules and rare coins. I wrote a catalogue as a permanent record, which I hope will be accessible to the public on the online database of finds.
The archaeological record shows that there was a massive increase in hoarding in the later third century AD. The coins of the High Weald hoard range from the reign of Caracalla to Postumus, with most emperors being represented in some quantity. The notable exceptions are Severus Alexander (AD 222-235) and Maximinus (AD 235-238). The High Weald hoard is similar to the famous Dorchester hoard as it contains a high proportion of earlier, less debased coinage such as that of the emperors Gordian and the Philips. However, the hoard is unusual as it closes with Postumus but is not composed highly of the extremely debased coins, such as the Bassaleg, Caerleon, Eastbourne and Selsey hoards. It is, furthermore, rare for such a large hoard to contain no examples of the smaller denomination denarii.
Coin hoards and individual coin finds are generally found on or in proximity to the coast. Coin hoards are very rare in the High Weald but the area has not been thoroughly searched by detectorists. Absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence.
Establishing a chronology of the iron sites of the Weald is problematic and coinage is an important tool in dating iron production sites. The High Weald hoard’s close proximity to the iron production site at Bardown presents a possible connection. The exploitation of the resources of the Weald was rapid and exhaustive. It is interesting as the end date of the hoard correlates with the decline in iron production sites and could be used to reaffirm the end date of the site.
Alexandra Stuart Hutcheson, British Museum Intern