Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 1-1 (May 2009)Nico Roymans; Joris Aarts: Coin use in a dynamic frontier region. Late Iron Age coinages in the Lower Rhine area


1. The term ‘Celtic’ is not used here in a strictly ethnic sense. It has emerged that in the Lower Rhine region Celtic coins were struck by tribes whom the Greco-Roman written sources describe as ‘Germanic’.

2. For a general introduction to Celtic numismatics, see Allen & Nash 1980.

3. Scheers 1977.

4. See Haselgrove 1999 and the bundle of articles collected in Haselgrove & Wigg 2005 respectively.

5. For example, it is important to point to substantial differences from coin use in pre-modern and modern city states and the Roman empire, all of which had a series of different coin denominations that functioned within a partially monetary economy dominated by markets.

6. Bohannan 1955; Lucas 1989; Roymans 1996, 45-47; Creighton 2005, 71-76.

7. Roymans 1990, 131 ff.; idem 1996, 44-49. See also Creighton 2005, 71-76, and Nick 2006, 111-112.

8. Bloch & Parry 1989, 24.

9. Appadurai 1986; Theuws 2004.

10. Theuws 2004, 128.

11. Haselgrove & Wigg-Wolf 2005, 12. In Picardy, there is even evidence that coins were minted at sanctuaries. Cf. Delestrée 2005. We should also remember that ritual coin depositions occurred at non-religious sites as well, such as oppida or rural settlements.

12. On the religious symbolism on coin images, cf. Haselgrove & Wigg-Wolf 2005, 13; Creighton 2000, 42 ff. In the Lower Rhine region, the triskeles and horse were particularly popular religious symbols.

13. We can point to the pre-Roman cult places of Empel, Kessel and Elst, which had a supra-local relevance. Cf. Roymans 2004, 12 ff.

14. For recent analyses of Late Iron Age societies in the Lower Rhine region, see Roymans 2004, chapter 2; Gerritsen & Roymans 2006; Roymans 2007.

15. For this discussion, see Roymans 2004, 45 ff., 84-87 and Bazelmans’ (2003) critical analysis of the distribution patterns of Roman coins in Friesland.

16. Haselgrove 1999, 128.

17. Beringen: Van Impe et al. 1997/1998. Niederzier: Göbl et al. 1991.

18. See Roymans 2004, chapter 4, for a recent synthesis of this coin type, with further references.

19. For a comprehensive analysis of this coin group, see Roymans (2004) chapter 6. An association with the Batavi is also apparent from the distribution of most variants featuring additional marks. Heinrichs (2003) initially argued for an Ubian emission, but later qualified his position, adding that the Batavi – as well as the Ubii – could have been responsible: Heinrichs 2005, 184. See also Nick 2006, 45, who believes it is too early to draw conclusions from present distribution patterns.

20. Schulze-Forster 2005; Heinrichs 2005. See also Nick 2006, 71.

21. Schulze-Forster 2005, 164ff. The earliest group corresponds to his I-IIIA series and the younger to his IIIB-C series. Most coins from the area west of the Rhine belong to the younger group.

22. Heinrichs 2005; Schulze-Forster 2005, 172 ff, is always cautious with tribal associations.

23. Recently, Eck (2004, 46-55) emphatically opted for a link to Agrippa’s second governorship.

24. Fifteen coins from 12 find spots are now known from the Batavian river region. Significantly, the cult place of Empel has yielded only three specimens (one from the early series) from a total of more than 850 Celtic coins: Roymans & Aarts 2005, table 1. See also Van den Brandhof 2005.

25. Haselgrove 1999, 157.

26. Scheers 1996, 11-12. For a discussion of the relation of this issue to the ethnogenesis of the Tungri, see also Aarts & Roymans, in press.

27. Aarts & Roymans, in press.

28. Aarts & Roymans, in press.

29. Haltern: Scheers 1996, 22; Ilisch 1999, 285. Flan mould, Nijmegen: Van Enckevort & Joosten 2002.

30. An alternative interpretation would be that the blanks made in this mould were used for striking imitations of low value Roman coins.

31. See the discussions in Roymans 2004, 82-89; Schulze-Forster 2005, 172 ff; Heinrichs 2005.

32. Cf. for example Van Heesch 1998, 45 ff.; Heinrichs 2003, 299; Nick 2006, 126 ff, 187.

33. According to historical sources, the Ubii moved in 39/38 or 19/18 BC under the governorship of Agrippa from the east to the west bank of the Rhine and settled in the Cologne hinterland. Cf. Eck 2004, 46-55. However, this is undoubtedly a highly simplified representation of events. As with the Batavi, we should think in terms of a new ethnogenesis resulting from a blending of the dominant migrant group (Ubii) with residual native groups.

34. See Roymans 2004, 89-90.

35. For the rare occurrence of Celtic coins in the Belgian coastal region west of the Schelde, see Van Heesch 1998, 39, 43, Figs. 14 and 19.

36. Apart from coins, a range of other material groups from the repertoire of forms of the later La Tène culture (glass bracelets, swords, horse gear, bronze vessels, belt hooks, fibulae, etc.) occur rarely or not at all in the Belgian-Dutch coastal zone. On this subject, see Roymans 2007. The volume and the social impact of the production and exchange of sea salt by coastal communities remains a subject for debate. In the Iron Age, this salt probably circulated in a different sphere of exchange from that of coins.

37. Cf. the distribution maps for bronze swords from the late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age and of southern imports from the Hallstatt C phase in the Low Countries in Roymans 1991, Figs. 6, 9, 13 and 16.

38. We could think here of the depiction of gods on Greek and Roman coins or the portrayal of the emperor as a deity, but also of the fact that coins were often minted on or near the site of sanctuaries. For example, the mint in Rome was located near the temple of Juno Moneta, and it is believed that the two buildings were linked by a corridor (Meadows 2001, 27). But we also encounter references to the divine on medieval and modern coins, such as the motto ‘God zij met ons’ [may God be with us] on the former Dutch guilder.

39. This does not mean that money was not used in market exchange. However, barter and other forms of exchange would always have played an important role alongside money, and conversely, market exchange can only account for part of the coinage in Late Iron Age societies. This applies to both low-value bronze coins and to gold and silver coins.

40. Looking at the degree of wear and tear on coins from cult places gives us some idea here. For example, gold coins from the temple at Empel are very obviously worn, which means that they circulated for a long time or very intensively after being issued and before being offered again (Roymans & Aarts 2005).

41. Aarts 2005. In certain exceptional circumstances (e.g. famine), conversion from the long to the short-term sphere of exchange was indeed possible. Also, plundering by a group of outsiders could result in coins once again ending up in the sphere of short-term exchange. Caesar’s plunder of gold hoards from Gallic cult places is a good example of this.

42. Roymans 2004, 91.

43. For the cult place at Empel (where Hercules Magusanus was worshipped as principal deity), for example, the present authors have attempted to interpret various deposition practices – including that of coins – using a life-cyle model of warriors or soldiers. Cf. Roymans & Aarts 2005.