Kent Archaeological Review extract
 

A Gallo-Belgic Stater Found at Whitfield near Dover.
by Jim Williams.

Firstly for the reader who is unfamiliar with this type of early coinage, I will explain some of the terms used; Belgic Gaul refers to the area of north-east Gaul bounded by the rivers Seine, Marne and Meuse, hence, coins struck in this district are called Gallo-Belgic. Stater means literally "a standard" coin. The Gallo-Belgic staters have their origin in the gold staters of Phillip II of Macedon, known as the "Phillippus", which were struck about the middle of the fourth century BC. This coin shows the bust of Apollo adorned with a laurel wreath, on the obverse and on the reverse a chariot, or biga, complete with charioteer drawn by a pair of horses executed in a pure classical art form.

Next I must thank the finder Mr C G Bradbear of Whitfield, near Dover, for readily giving his permission for the coin to be metallurgically examined and also for his patience in allowing me unlimited time to study this extremely interesting coin. Mr Bradbear found the coin in the garden of his home during the early summer of 1973; he subsequently contacted Mrs Coveney, Curator of the Dover museum, under whose care it has been ever since, and where it was put on public display being tentatively identified as a coin of the Ambiani tribe of Belgic-Gaul. 2 At the same time a short report with a photograph appeared in the Dover Express, the local newspaper. More thanks are due to Dr A R Cox, to whom the coin was submitted for metallurgical examination and also to his colleague Mr. David Glue who provided the following report: See Footnote [1] See Footnote [2]

COIN EXAMINATION.

A small gold coin, thought to be a Gallo-Belgic stater, was submitted for examination.

PHYSICAL EXAMINATION.

  1. Optical examination at low magnification revealed that both sides of the coin were in relatively poor condition with no clearly visible designs. The obverse side showed suggestions of a horse design identified on previous examples.See Footnote [3]
  2. High power optical examination suggested areas of a cored microstructure, typical of casting.
  3. The weight of the coin was 6.89 gms (106.3 grains).
  4. The density (specific gravity) of the coin was 16.10.

CHEMICAL ANALYSIS.

Examination of the microscan 5 revealed marked variations in chemical composition, indicative of elemental segregation. Typical analyses revealed the presence of gold, silver and copper with a significant number of small particles enriched in silicon (and oxygen). Average readings from several analysed points gave the following composition:

  • Copper 1-3 %
  • Silver 2-12 %
  • Gold -Balance

CONCLUSIONS.

The gold coin showed similarities to samples previously examined. The gold content appeared somewhat higher in this sample and was confirmed by the higher density figure. Both optical and electron examination revealed a cored microstructure, typical of a cast metal. The presence of silicon particles in the microstructure suggest that casting was carried out in a clay-type mould.

A typical description of a coin of this type is:
OBVERSE: Laurate head to the right in imitation of the head of Apollo.
REVERSE: Florid horse to the right with pellets to the rear and above, Victory above and a rosette below.
Classified by Allen as Gallo-Belgic A, by Mack as 1 and by Evans as Al, A2, A3 and A8.4 Commonly attributed to the Bellovaci of Belgic-Gaul. See Footnote [4] See Footnote [5]

DRAWING: The Gallo-Belgic Stater.

Gold Gallo-Belgic Stater found on a back garden path at Whitfield.
Drawn by Wendy Williams.

This particular coin appears to be a varient of the usual type6 of Gallo-Belgic A, and is at the lower end of the type weight range, which is between 103 and 120 grains. This may be due to the fact that it is considerably worn and has possibly been clipped, which is a usual condition especially when found in Kent. Or it is possible that it has been struck on a smaller flan than the usual Gallo-Belgic A as Evans suggests in the description of his A8, which is almost an exact parallel to this coin in type and size. Unfortunately his specimen is also considerably worn, and it differs in that it is 3.2 grains heavier than the Whitfield coin. The detail of the face, on the extreme right hand edge of A8, is absent from our coin while on the other side the lower extremities of the horse's legs and half the rosette that lies between them is missing. See Footnote [6] See Footnote [7] See Footnote [8]

The key to the dating of Gallo-Belgic A stems from its art style, which, according to Allen, is essentially undiluted Celtic art contrasting it strongly from later types, which came under the influence of Germanic people moving into Gaul, where the style tended towards disintegration when the head and horse finally became unrecognisable. (Evans makes the observation that the head on A8 is in the transition state as it is moving towards this disintegration and the horse, although retaining the florid style, is becoming more simple, the legs being single compared with the double legs of the horse on the standard Gallo-Belgic A). See Footnote [9] See Footnote [10] See Footnote [11]

This movement of the Germanic tribes is thought to have taken place in the third quarter of the second century BC and this is the date that Allen puts forward for the introduction of Gallo-Belgic A into Britain by the earliest waves of immigrants from Belgic Gaul, bringing their wealth and coinage with them. This seems to be the accepted reason for the presence of such large numbers of these coins found in this country rather than by way of trade. The natural entry route into Britain obviously lies through Kent, a fact attested by the number of find spots in the county which far exceed those from elsewhere. Essex is thought to be another possible entry route. See Footnote [12] See Footnote [13]

The worn and clipped condition of this type suggest that it was in use for some considerable time, so, we must regard this type to be of particular importance in that: it is the earliest of the coinages to be found here in any numbers, its high weight and high gold content confirm this in that all subsequent Gallo-Belgic coinages, which are derived from this type, get lighter and the gold content diminishes. Mr Bradbear, the finder, retains the specimen.

Notes:

Footnote 1.

The Natational Grid Reference is kept with the Index of Iron Age Coins at the Institute of Archaeology Oxford. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 2.

Ambiani; a Belgic people, between the Bellovaci and Atrebates, conquered by Caesar in 57 BC. Their chief town was Samarobriva now Amiens. W Smith, A smaller Classical Dictionary, 1888. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 3.

KAR Number 33, page 67. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 4.

D F Allen FSA, The origins of coinage in Britain: A Reappraisal, in Problems of the Iron Age in Southern Britain Ed. by S S Frere MA, FSA. 1961. R P Mack MVO, The Coinage of Ancient Britain, 1964. J Evans FSA, The Coins of the Ancient Britons 1864. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 5.

It is thought that the tribal name Bellovaci, commonly given to this type, is misleading in that the recorded find-spots in Gaul are too far north of Beauvais, in which the name Bellovaci survives, and that if any tribal name were used it should be Ambiani, Allen, page 100. Mack, page 1. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 6.

The term 'usual type' refers to the large, well defined coin that is often used to illustrate this type. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 7.

Allen, page 101. Mack, page 1. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 8.

Evans, page 54. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 9.

Allen, page 101. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 10.

Evans, page 55. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 11.

The double legs of the horse, making it appear to have eight legs, on Evans Al and A2 are thought to be all that remains of the original two horses of the biga on the Phillipus. Evans, p.48. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 12.

Allen, page 101, and Mack, page 1, agree on this date, however, Frere, Britannia; A History of Roman Britain, page 35, (Cardinal ed. 1974) would put it a little earlier to 150 BC. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 13.

Allen, page 126, figure 28 map 1, see also Allen, Celtic coins, Table 1 in Ordnance Survey Map of Southern Britain in the Iron Age, 1967. Return to the paragraph.
 
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