SESSION 13

USING AND ABUSING PRECIOUS METAL IN THE LATE ROMAN EMPIRE

Organised by: Richard Hobbs and Philippa Walton

In recent years, a vast amount of research has been completed or initiated on precious metals in the late Roman period, particularly silver plate and coins. This includes re-assessments of older high profile discoveries, such as the treasures from Berthouville, Traprain Law and Mildenhall, all resulting in major publications; and new research projects on the Vinkovci treasure, discovered in Croatia in 2012 and the ‘Sevso’ Treasure, half of which was returned to Hungary in 2014 after many years of legal wrangling over its ownership. There are also major studies of the significance of coin hoards in progress, namely the ‘Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire’ and ‘Hoarding in Iron Age and Roman Britain’ projects. The time is right to re-assess the many uses of precious metals in the late Roman period.

The proposed session will therefore explore the contribution precious metals can make to our understanding of social and economic change in the Roman Empire during the late Roman period, broadly the third to fifth centuries AD. We will assess how precious metal in all forms was used to forge or cement social relations and political alliances both within the Empire and beyond its frontiers. We also aim to illuminate the role of currency in its broadest sense by assessing the relationship between coinage, silver plate, bullion and Hacksilber, as well as the potential co-ordination of state and private production of coins and precious metal artefacts. The session will also seek to emphasise new ways that numismatists, archaeologists and specialists in material culture can work together to gain a better understanding of the role of precious metals in all its forms in late Roman society.

Bashing me gently: the Vinkovci treasure in context, Hrvoje Vulic and Damir Doracic

Argentum balneare. Late Roman silver vessels used for bathing and washing, Zsolt Mráv

The role of silver plate in late Roman society: some new approaches, Richard Hobbs and Janet Lang

All that glitters: analysing precious metal hoards recorded by the Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire Project, Philippa Walton

Silver and the transition from late Roman Britain to Early Medieval Scotland, Alice Blackwell