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
3 Survey of the principal coin groups from the Lower Rhine region

3.6 Bronze AVAVCIA coins and articulation with the Roman monetary system (Scheers 217 type, c. 25 BC-AD 10)

The most recent, comprehensive and widely distributed Lower Rhine coin group is that of bronze ‘AVAVCIA’ coins, the obverse of which shows a swastika and the reverse a horse (Fig. 11). Because the coins occur on such a vast scale in the earliest Roman camps and civil centres (Fig. 13), it is widely assumed that they were fully integrated into the Roman monetary system. It has been suggested that they were minted to make up for a shortage of small-denomination Roman coins. This raises the fundamental question of whether it is still possible to speak of a tribal issue, or whether they are better regarded as provincial Roman coins. A recent study of this coin type identified a fundamental distinction between distribution patterns for class I coins with the circular legend AVAVCIA on the reverse and class II/III coins without a legend.[27] Coins from the former group are concentrated in central Belgium (Fig. 14), with only small numbers known to be from Roman military and urban centres in the Rhineland. We suggest that class I coins be viewed as a tribal emission, struck before the first Roman forts were established in the Rhine zone under Drusus from c. 15 BC onwards. This issue can probably be ascribed to the Tungri. Further evidence to support this, apart from the distribution pattern, is the fact that the horse on the reverse is virtually a copy of the one on the ANNAROVECI coins discussed above. This brings us to the question of whether the functional interpretation of these class I coins as ‘small change’ is still tenable if we accept that this was a pre-Roman tribal issue. After all, a monetized market exchange system can hardly have existed in the Tongres area in the period before Drusus’ arrival. It makes more sense, as with the ANNAROVECI coins, to associate the production to the formative phase of the Tungri tribal confederation.[28] It is not inconceivable, as with Annaroveci above, that this involved a leader by the name of Avaucia.


Fig. 13 Distribution of bronze AVAVCIA coins (Schemers 217 type, all classes). a. 1-5 coins; b. 6-15 coins; c. 16-100 coins; d. >100 coins ; e. Roman camp (after Aarts & Roymans, in press, Fig. 3).


Fig. 14 Distribution of bronze AVAVCIA coins, variant with legend (class I). a. 1-5 coins; b. 6-15 coins; c. 16-100 coins; d. Roman camp (after Aarts & Roymans, in press, Fig. 50).

The coins from class II/III are uninscribed. Their distribution is clearly concentrated in the Roman camps in the Lower Rhine region, where they occur in vast numbers (Fig. 15). The coins appear to have been struck in the camps themselves, as evidenced by the identification of local variants at Haltern and the discovery of a flan mould fragment in the Roman camp on the Kops Plateau in Nijmegen.[29] The excavators associate this find with the local production of AVAVCIA coins.[30] What we can say is that the class II/III coins were struck after 15 BC by order or with consent of the Roman authorities with the aim to satisfy the enormous demand for small denomination coins in the Roman camps.


Fig. 15 Distribution of bronze AVAVCIA coins, variants with no legend (class II-III). a 1-5 coins; b 6-15 coins; c 16-100 coins; d >100 coins; e Roman camp (after Aarts & Roymans, in press, Fig. 6).