Aspects of my Research: Discussion on Durotrigan Coinage


The excavations of sites within Dorset and Somerset such as Maiden Castle, Hod Hill, Cadbury Castle and Hengistbury Head have revealed a great deal of information about the Durotriges. This includes aspects of trade, outside influence as well as settlement patterns. The coins have been found in several hoards such as at Hengistbury and Badbury hoards but also single specimens at sites such as Hod Hill and Maiden Castle (Papworth, 2011, 58). The hoards which were discovered at site 30 and 31 at Hengistbury Head consisted of staters, quarter staters and several starfish coins (Mays, 1987, 140-141). What is intriguing about this hoard is that it was deposited in the years following the Roman Conquest. This coupled with the fact that other Durotrigan coins have been found at Waddon (Papworth, 2011, 58) with Roman coins indicate that Durotrigan coinage was being used well into the Roman period. There was a mint at Hengistbury Head by the time of the Roman Conquest (Darvill,1998, 55) although whether this was used prior to the invasion is unknown. Excavations also revealed other commodities such as Armorican pottery from northern France and other Mediterranean goods; which were dated to the mid 1st century BC (Cunliffe, 1987, 136). Coins from the Atrebates and from Armorica indicated that Hengistbury Head was a port of trade. This site appears to be more a trading centre for the various tribes and perhaps did not belong to a single tribal entity.

Excavations on the earthworks and gateway of Cadbury Castle located on the supposed edge of Durotrigan territory in Somerset also revealed coins. These included thirteen coins which are the largest amount excavated from a settlement ( Haselgrove and Mays, 2000). The coins were mainly Durotrigan except one which was of Dobunnic type; this is perhaps not surprising considering Somerset is on the periphery of the two tribes. The number of coins recovered from excavations at Hod Hil as well as several other stray finds totals twenty seven. These are now part of the Durden Collection (Allen, 1968, 44). These include three Dobunnic staters, two of which were inscribed, three Coriosolites coins, one Lemovices coin and one Icenian coin. This indicates that Hod Hill was a well-known site not just to the Durotriges but to other tribes as well who probably came there to trade.

Hillforts and ports of trade are not the only sites where coins have been discovered. The three Durotrigan Staters excavated at North Down Banjo enclosure between 2010-11 are not the only coins recovered from the site. Previously in the 1980s a metal detector had unearthed over one hundred staters most of which are unfortunately now lost. This site has revealed later Roman coinage but no other non-Durotrigan coinage has been found. This indicates that coins were not only being used at hillforts and ports of trade but also on much smaller enclosures and sites such as North Down.

One of the most prominent hillforts in England and another candidate for a tribal centre is Maiden Castle. The excavations by Wheeler in the 1930s revealed fifteen coins. Of these fifteen coins five were Atrebatic and the rest were Armorican and Gaulish (Sharples, 1991, 156). No Durotrigan coins have been found and there is no evidence of a mint which may have given evidence for a tribal capital. But the excavations by Sharples (1991) suggested that from 100 BC a gradual breakdown of occupation of the hillfort occurred with the rows of houses being replaced with houses laid out in a less orderly form (Sharples,1991, 93).The basis of the assumption that Maiden Castle was a tribal capital is simply due to its size (Cottam et al, 2011, 110). However just to the north of Maiden Castle limited excavations have revealed a substantial unenclosed nucleated settlement (Cunliffe 2004, 187). Perhaps this was where the majority of the population resided.

4.3 Discussion
In order to see how Durotrigan coinage was different to other tribes a short comparsion is needed. If we compare the Durotrigan coinage with that of the Atrebates we can see a distinct difference in design, style and influence. The first series of coins by the Durotrges is the stater which began to be struck by 68 BC (Van Arsdell 1989, 347-351). The design model for this and the Atrebatic stater is the coin of Phillip II of Macedon which showed the head of Apollo with a chariot and horses on the reverse. This gradually spread through the Balkans and Gaul to reach Britain (Jersey, 2001, 7). The stater which was initially struck in gold shows a head of Apollo on one side with a horse on the reverse. The head of Apollo is similar to the early Atrebatic stater which is produced around the same period; in that both depict a head of Apollo and a horse on the reverse. But the Atrebatic stater which was struck ten years later than the Durotrigan version in 55 BC is different in that it is slightly more dispersed. In a recent study Pudill and Eyre (2005, 29) argued that the early staters of the Durotriges are most similar to the Trinovantes stater, it is certainly similar, while according to Cottom et al (2011, 20) ‘they perhaps copied from their eastern neighbours’. While this may be true, Atrebatic staters are similar as well, so the Durotriges may not have been the only ones to copy their neighbours initially at least. These staters were produced at a time when influence from the Continent was occurring through trade at ports like Hengistbury Head and Poole harbour, therefore the closest similarities of Durotrigan coins with Atrebatic coins are these early staters. Prior to the Gallic Wars of Caesar between 58-50 BC the Durotriges had traded through Hengisbury Head to Armorica and other sites along the coast of Gaul and the evidence of coins and foreign imports indicate a time of relative prosperity (Cunliffe 2004, 179). However Caesar’s conquest of Gaul had an impact on the coinage of the Durotriges as Cunliffe states (2004, 182:

The Gallic War therefore marks the end of the period of Durotrigan prosperity and heralds nearly a century of economic and cultural isolation.

This prosperity may be witnessed in the early gold staters which were produced prior to 58 BC, however the staters and later quarter staters were gradually debased during this period resulting in according to Cunliffe (2004, 182)

a debased coinage of white gold was being produced. Immediately after the war the coinage was further debased: the gold content soon disappeared altogether and then the percentage of silver began to be reduced until about 30 BC,by which time the issues were entirely of bronze.(Cunliffe 2004, 182)

The Durotrigan quarter staters which were struck by 50 BC show a geometric design on the reverse with a boat like figure on the obverse (Pudill and Eyre, 2005, 29). This boat figure with three people on top may be due to the influence which Armorican tribes such as the Veneti had through trade on the Durotriges.The evidence for this level of trade with the Veneti and other Armorican tribes comes from the coinage which has been recovered from the Le Catillon hoard in Jersey and from Hengistbury Head (Cunliffe, 2004 , 97). This is in stark contrast with the Atrebates who produced the first inscribed coins in Britain by 45 BC with the inscription being ascribed to Commios upon whom Caesar mentions in his commentaries. However Evans (1865, 154) was cautious and warned that the Commios on the coins may not be the same person as Caesar mentions. During this time or perhaps earlier the Durotrigans struck the starfish type of coins (Papworth, 2011, 86). The design on this shows a typical La Tene type of swirl with a zig zag on the reverse. These coins are smaller than the quarter stater and show that the Durotriges were keeping the La Tene tradition of art going despite outside influences. The last denomination to be produced by the Durotriges was the unit, which was for the first time cast in bronze (Papworth, 2011, 86). This was produced from 40 BC until the Roman conquest. A simple design of dots on the obverse with a spike or trident and a series of dots on the reverse are shown. This indicates that the Durotriges are keen to keep to their traditional coins and are not accepting outside influences. The units suggest that the Durotriges are firmly opposed to any changes which are occurring elsewhere. This idea that the Durotriges are resisting Romanisation is concurrent with de Jersey’s view who states (2001, 8):

The tribes on the periphery zone were more resistant to Romanisation and retained the characteristically Celtic designs.

While this is occurring we can see clear evidence of the influence of Rome on the coinage of Tincomaros of the Atrebates. This coinage shows the Latin inscription on the obverse COMF and on the reverse TIC; the horse on the reverse is now more defined. By the end of the 1st century BC we can see the clear the influence of Rome on quarter staters of Eppilius which now show the name of what was probably the principal town or settlement of the Attrebates that is Calleva (Bean, 2000, 155). Finally the Verica coins which were produced en masse across the south were produced in several denominations. We can see on the units clear Roman motifs such as the cornucopia which makes it clear that the reach of Rome has made an impact on Atrebatic coinage (Pudill and Eyre, 200 , 43). The Durotrigan coinage on the other hand has been completely opposed to this. This could be because the Gallic Wars had a negative impact on them and that they did not wish to adopt foreign influences because of this. It has been argued by Cunliffe (2004, 182) and Papworth( 2011, 374) that the Durotriges were isolated during this period. The fact that the Durotriges still had access to the ports at Hengistbury Head and later Poole harbour and were in close proximity to the Atrebates may suggest otherwise. Based on the excavated sites and pottery of the Durotriges both Papworth (2011, 375) and Cunliffe (2004, 178) and Cotton et al(2011,110) have come to the conclusion that the Durotriges were not a unified tribe but a confederacy. While evidence for this may be provided with the settlements and pottery, the coinage suggests otherwise. The uniform coinage suggests that whether the Durotriges were united (Papworth, 20011, 374) or not they were linked by some means whether religious or cultural. It seems likely therefore that the Durotriges chose not to adopt foreign influences and preferred their own indigenous designs.

The results from the coinage data show a clear difference in style and influence. While coins from the Durotriges do show evidence from earlier types of coins notably the Phillip II stater (Pudill and Eyre, 2005, 14), the proceeding coins were essentially of indigenous design. On some of the coins such as the starfish, the design is of La Tene style. The comparison of the coinage of the Durotriges and Atrebates shows that in the early 1st century BC the staters were very similar, during Caesar’s Gallic Wars a change occurred which are reflected in the coinage. Durotrigan coins become gradually debased as an effect of the conquest of Gaul and the design gradually included irregular shapes and simple dots which show an isolated attitude to foreign influence (Cunliffe, 2004, 182). Atrebatic coins become steadily more influenced by Rome during and after the Gallic Wars (Bean, 2000, 210).

However the data recovered from the settlements and sites within the Durotrigan sphere indicate that trade existed throughout the territory. Although the hoards recovered from Hengistbury Head show that various tribes from Gaul and Britain used the site for trade (Cunliffe, 2004, 97) this is not only the site where this occurred. The data is not uniform in that is does not show that coins were being used at any particular sites. Rather they were being distributed to hillforts, ports of trade and even small enclosures. Staters recovered from North Down are a good example of the wide distribution of coins even to smaller enclosures. While there are aspects of the distribution map which can be useful for showing where the density of coins have been recorded, this does not take in to account stray finds which have not been recorded (Rodwell, 1981, 48) unlike the Atrebatic coins which have inscriptions of a specific place (Calleva) which can be identified historically and archaeologically to be one of principal sites of the tribe; the Durotriges do not have inscriptions that indicate a tribal capital. There are a number sites such as Maiden Castle, Hod Hill and Hambledon Hill which are densely inhabited also Ilchester which may be large enough and significant enough to be thought of as a tribal centre. The coinage data for the Durotriges does not provide sufficient evidence to suggest a tribal capital. In fact what is termed as the Durotriges may not have been a single tribe at all but a confederacy of tribes as Cunliffe (2004, 178) and Papworth (2011, 375) believe. Evidence for this is provided by the various hillforts such as Maiden Castle, Hod Hill and Hambledon which were still occupied in the late Iron Age. Furthermore the coins do not have any inscriptions which may suggest a single ruler of the Durotriges.

5. Conclusion

Results from the settlement data and coinage comparison indicate that the Durotriges were an isolated body. There is also no sign of an emerging elite as is the case with the Atrebates. This is supported by Cunliffe who states (2004, 189)

The Durotriges remained an isolated body with an impoverished coinage, showing little sign of wealth accumulation or the emergence of a dominant elite

The use of distribution maps can be problematic as according to Rodwell (1981 , 48) the coinage distribution only reflects the modern collection and interpretation of the coins and may not reflect their original purpose. For the coinage may have had a different purpose than for bartering ,and an example of a secondary purpose has been suggested by Collis (1981) who considered the Athenian model of the Obol which was initially used to pay for military service and jury service only later being used for exchange (Collis, 1981,53-55). Others such as Howgego (2005, 113) suggests that coinage was used by some states for military service. He mentions the story of the Athenian Commander Timotheus who devised a bronze coinage in order to pay his troops against an expedition against Olynthos . While the Durotriges may have used this to pay for troops there is no evidence for this and it seems more likely that they were used either for high status or for bartering.

This study has been researched in order to answer the question what makes the Durotrigan coinage so different than other tribes. Coinage of the Durotriges does not indicate social elite as no inscriptions or faces can be discerned from the coinage. The settlement data indicates that a number of sites such as Hengistbury Head, Maiden Castle and Hod Hill have several different types of coins ranging from Durotrigan staters to inscribed Dobunnic and Atrebatic coins. Any of these sites could potentially have been a tribal capital; the excavations from these sites certainly indicate habitation in the late Iron Age. But moreover the coinage and archaeology from these sites have not provided enough evidence to say for certain. It may be as Cunliffe (2004, 189) believes that the Durotriges were a confederacy, the coinage does not prove otherwise, as of yet.

The gradual debasement of Durotrigan coinage which began around 58 BC occurred during a time of immense change on the continent in Gaul (Papworth, 2011, 58). This change was caused by the effect of Caesar’s Gallic wars between 58-50 BC. This resulted in decrease of trade from Armorica (modern Brittany) and from the Veneti tribe which Caesar had conquered. It was during this period that Durotrigan coinage began to be debased first with the staters and then the quarter staters. These were debased at roughly five year intervals (Papworth,2011, 56). Atrebatic staters were also debased but the coins become gradually more Romanised in style as the 1st century BC closed (Bean, 2000, 210). Prior to the Gallic Wars Hengistbury head was used as a port of trade, where coins from various tribes and pottery from Armorica have been recovered. The port was in decline by the mid 1st century BC as Poole harbour located further west along the coast became the dominant centre of trade (Cunliffe 2004, 179). The debasement was probably due to the lack of trade during this destructive period and also due to the monopoly which Rome had on the trade networks during this time. While the coins gathered from the CCI indicate that the staters and quarter staters have been the most numerous coins to be discovered. Trade certainly existed between tribes (as is shown by the pottery and coinage found at Hengistbury and other sites) but the data gathered in this study shows that the Durotriges although they did have access to imports they become isolated as an impact of Caesar’s wars. This can be seen in the coins which were gradually debased and became progressively more simplistic.

The aim of this study which has been to assess what affected the coinage of the Durotriges has been answered. The differences in the coinage of the Durotriges are caused mainly because of the disruption in trade in the mid-1st century BC and also due to their isolation unlike other tribes such as the Atrebates whose coins in contrast were more open to influence to Rome and this is reflected in their coinage. The analysis from the distribution has its flaws in that it cannot be used on its own to prove an existence of a tribal centre, only to show find spots. But the settlements do show a variation in coinage, some sites such as North Down showing only Durotigan coins while others such as Hengistbury Head, Maiden Castle and Hod Hill showing many non-Durotrigan coins. While the coinage does not indicate a tribal centre by itself, it does show that the tribe we know as the Durotriges shared the same coinage even if they may not have been united as a tribe. They perhaps shared the same culture and thus were united in this respect.



Author:  Jeremy Hallatt


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