Saturday 4 September: Outing to Colchester, with June Porges and Stewart Wild. Application forms were enclosed with the last Newsletter. There are still a few vacancies; contact Dorothy Newbury
Tuesday 12 October, 8pm: ‘Egyptology’ Lecture by Lucia Gahlin
Tuesday 9 November, 8pm: ‘ Durolevum’ Lecture by Paul Wilkinson Tuesday 7 or 14 December: Christmas Dinner – to be confirmed
Tuesday 11 January 2005, 8pm: ‘Colchester’ Lecture by Kate Orr; a follow up to our September visit
This will be the fourth successive year of this very popular and successful course. The course is entitled “Post excavation analysis of materials from the Sammes archive” and is run jointly by HADAS and Birkbeck (the extra-mural college of the University of London). It can count towards Birkbeck’s certificates and diplomas if a student desires. The course uses materials and artefacts from excavations carried out by HADAS in the 1970s, with a view to applying the latest techniques of analysis to bring the detailed results of those excavations to publication. It is run by Jacqui Pearce of MoLSS (The Museum of London’s Specialist Service), one of the country’s leading experts in Post-Medieval pottery and clay pipes and author of many books and articles. Other experts on such areas as the Saxon and Roman periods, the various types of artefacts, coins, building materials and leather, etc, are brought in to lecture and advise whenever appropriate. The course takes place at Avenue House, East End Road, Finchley, where we also hold our lectures, on Wednesday evenings from 18.30 to 20.30. The first session takes place on Wednesday, 22nd September 2004. There are 26 sessions. The cost is £166 or £83 for concessions. Applications should be made to Central Enrolment, Faculty of Continuing Education, Birkbeck, University of London, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ quoting course no. FFAR015UACP. Many HADAS members return again and again to enjoy the conviviality of the course and the expert teaching and advice from Jacqui and her colleagues. Sec you there!
Church Farmhouse Museum’s Summer exhibition presents puppets from around the world. with a special section on the history of the Punch and Judy show. 1950s toy theatres from Pollock’s Toy Museum are on show as well. The exhibition also includes display of the Museum’s own collection of 19th Century children’s hooks, featuring works by the cartoonist and writer Frank Horrabin, who lived in Hendon in the 1950s and 1960s, and by Mark Lemon, first editor of Punch. who spent his childhood years at Church Farm in the early 1800s. The exhibition ends on September 12th. (Further details can be had by ringing 020 8203 0130)
For those of you (including your Editor for this month) who don’t know about the Gresham College lectures, we have details of several that may interest archaeologists, with the bonus of free entry to Barnard’s Inn Hall, Holborn. Lectures are given by Gresham Professors and other specialists, including HADAS’s previous President, Dr Ann Saunders, whose October 4th talk is on London 1616: a snapshot of London early in James I’s reign. Other intriguing titles are: Disease and death in late Stuart London; Coffee shop society in 17th C London; Two thousand years of London Bridge; In the beginning: the Roman, Viking and Norman Conquests. Further information: Gresham College, Barnard’s Inn Hall, Holborn, London ECIN 2HH (phone: 020 7831 0575; e-mail: enquiries @gresham.ac.uk)
First of all I must apologise for not thanking all those members and friends who wrote or phoned me with congratulations on my MBE award. I know I have devoted a lot of time to HADAS, but I have enjoyed every minute of it. Now I am partially sighted and have other problems too I am so thankful to have made so many friends in HADAS who still keep in touch, and also to all the trip leaders who allow me to keep on with the attendance list – and sometimes ask me for advice. The next message is from “Barney” who phoned me to say his wife Mary Barnett died two weeks ago. They were both regular day trip and long weekend members until Mary became ill a few years ago. Mary was a journalist on the Finchley & Barnet local papers and was connected to the establishment of the Chinese News Agency at the time of the Japanese attack on China. She was involved in demonstrations in Oxford Street when the Japanese Attaché snatched her leaflets and was later sent back to Japan. One more message: I have found the programme of our last outing to Greenstead Saxon Church, which we shall be visiting as part of our September 7th trip. That was in 1982 and organised by Ted Sammes. The 1982 programme shows a picture of the church, with details of the building and its history. But, more interestingly, inside it has a picture of our founder member, Aristotle Constantinides, together with his notice of HADAS’s very first outing on 1961 which was to Greenstead Church. The cost was 10s, including coach and everything. Those were the days!
This is the first part of a concise and helpful survey of Roman coinage by long-standing HADAS member, William A Morris. Part II of his survey, looking at 3rd and 4th C money and the surprising gaps in our knowledge, will appear in a forthcoming Newsletter. He has added that, to a Roman, a worn coin was worth far less than a new one. Maybe it’s time to we started looking more carefully at the change we are given. The same coins circulated throughout all the countries making up the Roman Empire, so the coins used in Roman Britain were in the main simply universal Roman Imperial coins rather than specifically British ones. One surprising difference between Roman coins and the coins we use today is that Roman coins were not marked with any words or symbols indicating the value of the coin. The words ONE DENARIUS for example did not appear anywhere on the denarius coin, you just had to recognize the value of the coin from its size and the metal from which it was made. Someone who had never seen a particular coin before would therefore have no idea what it was worth so newcomers to the empire had to learn quickly! Another important difference between Roman coins and modern coins is that no date appears on Roman coins and this is a hindrance to easy dating on archaeological sites where Roman coins turn up. Dating of such coins is difficult without a good knowledge of Roman history, as it relies on clues such as the dates when Roman emperors acquired certain titles or when certain military campaigns occurred. The obverse, or front, of a Roman coin was however very similar to the front of a modern coin, in that it bore a representation of the head of the reigning ruler surrounded by a legend which gave the ruler’s name and some of his or her titles, such as PATER PATRIAE (= FATHER OF THE COUNTRY). Sometimes, but not always, these titles continued round the reverse of the coin which usually also bore a design. This design very frequently changed and was often a representation of a Roman god or mythical hero. Many coins also bore a slogan on their reverse, such as FELICITAS AUGUSTI (= THE SUCCESS OF THE EMPEROR). The emperor Hadrian had a particular interest in the provinces of the Roman Empire and he introduced coin designs with provincial symbols, so that Britannia appeared on the reverse of a number of coins in his reign. One of the conventions used in Roman coinage was that double value coins, when produced, were distinguished by adorning the emperor’s head on the coin with a special crown made of rays of light; known as a radiate crown. The emperor’s head on the coin of which it was the double did not of course have such a crown. For much of the period up to the middle of the third century the standard coin in use in Roman Britain was the denarius (plural denarii). This attractive coin was the standard day’s pay for a Roman soldier and thus had quite a high value. It was round, made of silver, and was the size of a modern five pence piece. In value it was equal to four sestertii.
The sestertius (plural sestertii) was a much larger, thicker, and heavier coin, made of brass, and roughly the size of a modem commemorative crown. In value it was equal to four asses.
The as (plural asses) was in practice the smallest value coin in use in Roman Britain. There did exist on the continent lesser coins such as the semis, equal to half an as, and the quadrans, equal to one quarter of an as, but these coins were very rarely found in Britain. Could it be that prices for many products were higher in Britain than on the continent, perhaps because they had to be shipped in? Some things do not change! The as was a copper coin about the size of a modern ten pence coin. Being a sixteenth of a day’s pay for a soldier it was a surprisingly valuable coin. One of the remarkable things about Roman coins circulating at this time was their high value, which meant there was a lack of small change at the period. It is surmised that small value exchanges continued by barter as they had done in pre-Roman times.
The denarius, the sestertius, and the as, formed the basic currency units used in Britain at the period. All sestertii and asses were marked on the reverse with the letters SC (SENATUS CONSULTIO) indicating that they had been struck with the authority of the senate. A gold coin called the aureus, worth 25 denarii, also existed but was used as bullion and was not in general circulation. There was also a coin in circulation at the time known as the dupondius, which had a value of two asses. The emperor’s head of course bore the radiate crown indicating it was a double value coin, but apart from this one feature it was identical to an as coin, so the spender had to look quite carefully at it before he handed it over!