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102.01

102.01

102 - 01    Life-Like Bull Type    ca. 100 B.C.     ER
Cast Bronze    ca. 2.2 gms.     18 mm

Earliest Record: Van Arsdell, 1986b

OBV: Celticized head of Apollo left
Identifying points:
     1) head relatively naturalistic

REV: Celticized bull charging right
Identifying points:
     1) relatively life like bull charging right
     2) pellet on body of bull

CLASSIFICATION: Cantian A

NOTES: This is the earliest extant coin manufactured in
                       Britain.
                The parting line around the edge and the sprues (casting tabs)                        indicate a casting process was used.
                A mother-coin was used to produce the image in the mould.
                This type was copied directly from the cast coinage of Masillia.

Earliest British coinages

 

The Earliest British Coinage ca. 125 - 75 B.C.

During the Second Century B.C., the British tribes imported coins from Gaul to meet their needs. By 100 B.C., however, a market economy had developed around the mouth of the Thames and it needed low-value coins (22). This need for small change was to foster the first British-made coins. Around 100 B.C., or perhaps a bit earlier, a Kentish tribe, probably the Cantii, began to cast coins in a high-tin bronze alloy. Using the bronze coinage of Massalia as a prototype, they placed a head of Apollo on the obverse and a charging bull on the reverse. The earliest of these coins are the Life-Like Bull and Abstract Bull Types.

Van Arsdell, 1983a, 1984d, 1992a, 1993g and 1994a
104.01

104 - 01    Abstract Bull Type    ca. 100 B.C.    ER
Cast Bronze    ca. 2.6 gms.    20 mm

Earliest Mention: Van Arsdell, 18986b

OBV: Celticized head of Apollo left
Identifying points:
     1) head now scribed—in with a stylus, but an attempt made to produce a life-like           image

REV: Celticized bull charging right
Identifying points:
     1) same stylus technique used

CLASSIFICATION: Cantian A

102.01

102 - 01    Life-Like Bull Type    ca. 100 B.C.     ER
Cast Bronze    ca. 2.2 gms.     18 mm

Earliest Record: Van Arsdell, 1986b

OBV: Celticized head of Apollo left
Identifying points:
     1) head relatively naturalistic

REV: Celticized bull charging right
Identifying points:
     1) relatively life like bull charging right
     2) pellet on body of bull

CLASSIFICATION: Cantian A

NOTES: This is the earliest extant coin manufactured in
                       Britain.
                The parting line around the edge and the sprues (casting tabs)                        indicate a casting process was used.
                A mother-coin was used to produce the image in the mould.
                This type was copied directly from the cast coinage of Masillia.

A short-lived, but different coinage, carrying similar motifs, appeared about the same time. This is called the Thurrock Type. It is best represented by large hoard (possibly mint-debris) found north of the Thames. The Thurrock Type may be the first coins of the Trinovantes/Catuvellauni (23). Because many of these coins have also been found in Kent, there is a debate whether the Thurrock Type should be considered a Kentish coinage, instead.

Fox, 2013
1402.01 another

1402 - 01    Thurrock Apollo Head Variety    100-90 B.C.    C
Cast Bronze 17 mm

Earliest Record: Van Arsdell, 1989

OBV: Head of Apollo left
Identifying points:
     1) hair in crescents
     2) lifelike portrait

REV: Bull charging right
Identifying points:
     1) MA above bull
     2) exergual line below bull
     3) central boss on bull

CLASSIFICATION: Trinovantian A

NOTES: Sprue runs through coin on obverse and reverse.

Plausibly, the cast bronze coins could have been produced by either the Trinovantes/Catuvellauni, the Cantii, or both. There is another possibility, though less likely, that any or all of these coins were contract-manufactured by specialists in Gaul to British specifications. Because no mint site has ever been identified, it is impossible to prove which tribe produced the coins. The current debate, a largely sterile one, centers on findspot maps, which merely show where the coins went out of use, not their place of origin. The debate will not likely be resolved until mint sites are identified and proven.

Previously, these early British pieces had been considered copies of the coins of the Leuci, a tribe in eastern Gaul. The coins of the Leuci are adapted from the same Massaliot bronzes. However, the earliest extant British examples are closer in style to the Massaliot prototype, suggesting a direct derivation (24). Furthermore, Massalia bronzes have been found at Richborough and Canterbury, and they may have arrived in Britain as a result of the wine trade with southern Gaul. The Kentish tribes were likely to have been familiar with them, when the time came to produce their own cast bronze coinage.

Van Arsdell, 1983a and 1986b

The Kentish Cast Bronzes are amongst the most fascinating of all British coins, because they demonstrate Celtic ingenuity at its best (25). The Cantii were required to produce large quantities, and because each coin had a low intrinsic value, they had to produce them economically. Initially, the moneyers experimented with manufacturing techniques – the earliest examples appear to be made from moulds produced by impressing a mother coin into the clay. Soon, textile, wood and perhaps other materials were used to produce the runner system, and a stylus was used to scribe the design. Once the most efficient method was discovered, the coins became standardized and were subsequently issued in enormous quantities throughout the first half of the first century B.C., to be replaced ultimately by struck bronzes (26).

Van Arsdell, 1989g and de Jersey, 2005d
Van Arsdell, 1986b, for a general discussion

Although the cast bronzes were used primarily in Kent, other findspots indicate they traveled throughout southern Britain, well beyond the territory of the Cantii (27). Large numbers have been found near London and the vicinity of the Thames (perhaps votive deposits). The Durotriges imported them, possibly as scrap metal during the Gallic War.

Haselgrove, 2006b, p. 18

 

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