For this week’s Finds Friday, we’re looking at a group of coins from Cataractonium. These nine coins were found in the mouth of a human skeleton buried around AD325.
Coins were an important arm of Roman imperial propaganda because they were often the only way a subject would have seen the face of their emperor (often heavily idealised!), and the design on the reverse was a way of projecting short political messages. These coins date to the reign of Constantine I and represent him, his two eldest sons, Crispus and Constantine II, and his erstwhile ally Licinius who he defeated in civil war in AD325.
But what about the individual in the grave? What would these coins have meant to the person they were buried with?
The practice of burying a person with a coin ‘for the ferryman’ was widespread in the ancient world but a whole stack is unusual. Extreme inflation during the late Roman period meant that the value of coinage fell sharply. Burying an individual with so many coins may be a localised tradition, and perhaps an attempt to ensure that the deceased still had enough money to pay for their crossing.
Find out more about this find, and others in our mongraph Death, Burial and Identity: 3000 Years of Death in the Vale of Mowbray.