Archaeologists working for Cotswold Archaeology have uncovered a rare mid 3rd century Roman coin hoard in Bath. Based on the size of the deposit, this hoard could contain over 1,000 coins and was lifted as a single soil block from the site, where the main pool will be built for the Gainsborough Hotel and Thermal Spa, to be taken away for laboratory excavation and conservation.
Two of the better preserved coins are of a type known as antoniniani, valued at two denarii and introduced by Caracalla in early AD 215. Inflation saw the steady debasement of these coins – also known as radiates, because the emperor is depicted on the obverse wearing a radiate crown – from silver to bronze. One of the antoniniani in the hoard appears to be an issue of the emperor Phillip I (‘the Arab’) dateable to around AD 244-249.
Approximately 1,500 coin hoards have been discovered in Britain but the mid 3rd century is one of the most poorly represented periods, which makes this a find of considerable archaeological interest. Also intriguing is its location: most hoards come from rural locations but this one was deposited against the inside face of a masonry wall in what appears to have been a small, roughly oval pit, measuring 40cm x 30cm, dug through the floor of a Roman building.
Conventional thinking is that hoards were concealed by their owners with the intention of later recovery – which, for some reason, was prevented. They are more common from some periods than others and in some instances this can be linked to known periods of political and economic crisis.