One of our most exciting finds looks a littlle underwhelming at first sight; but bear with us, we promise there’s more to it than meets the eye!
This is a fragment of a coin pellet mould (CPM). Trays like this were made to cast blanks – small pellets, such as the example seen here, in a variety of metals and their alloys including gold, silver and copper alloy which could then be struck into coins. We recovered a single pellet during our excavations. Once cast, the pellets are thought to have been struck while hot to produce a flan or blank which could then be struck with a die to produce a coin.
We recovered over 1300 fragments of CPM during the excavations. We collaborated with a team of specialists to analyse the form, fabrics and metallic residues of the moulds, alongside the pellet to build a picture of how these moulds were used, what metals were used and what happened to the moulds when they were finished with.
The manufacturing activity extends from the late 1st century BC to the mid-1st century AD and the moulds could have been used to make around 3650 pellets. We discovered that there were two distinct groups of trays and they were heated to temperatures in excess of 1000oC. Scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive analysis (SEM-EDS) showed that they were being used to manufacture pellets in at least two different alloys: a silver/copper mix and a gold/silver/copper mix. The pellet we found is a gold alloy. After they had been used the moulds may have been deliberately decommissioned. They were then deposited and, it would appear, later deliberately redeposited.
During the Late Iron Age, coinage wasn’t used as everyday currency in the way we use money today and it was not used throughout Britain. The largest body of evidence for manufacturing and use is concentrated in the south and east of England. Traditionally, the Brigantes (the tribe who controlled the territory around Scotch Corner) were thought not to have used coinage. Until our discoveries at Scotch Corner there was no evidence for coin manufacturing anywhere north of the Humber. This is, therefore, a fascinating financial first! They demonstrate that Scotch Corner was home to a community of highly skilled metalworkers who may have been producing bullion or even coinage for Queen Cartimandua and her forebears.
Evidence from Scotch Corner will be used in ongoing research into metalworking, coin manufacturing and usage in Britain and beyond.