British Tribal Coins

British Tribal Coins

British Tribal Coins Reveal Pre-Roman History

British Tribal Coins are interesting in what they are showing about part of the British Isles before the Roman occupation.  Some British tribes had contact with the Belgic tribes of what is now Northern France.  In fact, some Belgic people may have migrated to what is now the southeastern part of England.


One thing the Gallo-Belgic people had that found its way to Britain was gold coins.  It can be determined that these coins are from the Gallo-Belgic people because they match other ancient coins found on the continent.


British Tribal Coins Use

Late Iron Age

British tribal coins probably did not circulate in everyday commerce.  They were made in both gold and silver.  Perhaps some were used in trade with the people of the continent.  Indeed, many late Iron Age coins found in England had their origins on the continent.


Some coins from the Iron Age were actually minted in England.  These can often be identified as pertaining to a tribe by the image of the king found on the coin along with inscriptions.  Of course the very idea of minting coins could have been a result of contact with the continent, and a need for trade with the continent may have been a factor in developing minting.


British Tribal Coins in Hoards

Often Found in Quantities

Few individual coins are unearthed.  However, large caches of coins are often found.  Could these have been the property of a king?  Perhaps, or they might have belonged to a merchant.  The tribes in the southeastern part of Britain had access to the continent via the English Channel.  Since there is a concentration of late Iron Age coins in the southeastern region, it appears tribe to tribe commerce using coins meant little or nothing to the other tribes.  In order to spend a coin one must have a person who is willing to accept it.  A small disk of metal would serve little purpose where coins are not in general usage.


In the days before banks, treasure had to be buried.  So, if one had a large quantity of gold and silver coins, burying them was the safest way to retain them.


In several sources I have found that some coin hoards were probably buried as offerings to the gods of the region.  The determination of this is easy, just consider the location of the burial.  If it corresponds to a religious place, the coins were probably an offering.


Regardless of their intended use, images of British tribal coins often show coins in nice condition, not worn by heavy use.  Gold and silver can survive burial, but are soft and wear with use.  Of course we are not looking at pure gold, nor pure silver, so some handling might have occurred with no major damage.


British Tribal Coins Reveal History

Kings Can Be Identified

Kings of the tribes would sometimes have their own image placed on the coins.  This was a practice of the Romans from the time of Julius Caesar onward.  Prior to Julius Caesar, Roman gods were used on the coins.  The change was not popular, and possibly the reason Julius Caesar proclaimed himself a god.  The population was concerned that this change would disrespect the gods, and thus Rome would lose the favor of those gods.  His way to appease the people was to proclaim himself a god.


Because kings used their own image and inscribed their names, we can get greater detail of who was king of a tribe, and when.  This is significant, and makes the determination of rulers easier in the southeastern region of Britain.  The problem is coinage came in just before the Roman occupation of Britain, so it is not possible to go back very far.


One Question Remains

Where did the gold come from?  Gold does exist in southeastern Britain, but was it being mined in the late Iron Age?  Or, was gold itself part of trade with the Belgic people on the continent?  Another possibility is Gallo-Belgic coins of gold and silver were melted and minted as tribal coins.



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