the date of the sutton hoo coins / alan m. stahl and w.a. oddy

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  • 8/20/2019 The date of the Sutton Hoo coins / Alan M. Stahl and W.A. Oddy


    The Date of the Sutton Hoo Coins

    ALAN M. STAHL and W. A.   ODDY

    Thirty-seven gold coins were found in the purse of the Sutton Roo burial, all apparently minted   inMerovingian

    France.   I   Only four of these coins bear the name of a ruler. Three are coins in the name of the Byzantine emperor 

    Maurice Tiberius, bearing the mint signatures of the French town of Arles [SH.27], Valence [SH.26] and Venasque

    [SH.ll].' As it is unlikely that these coins were minted under any effective Byzantine authority, they are known

    as quasi-imperial issues (Germanic imitations of Byzantine coins with no mint attributions are known as pseudo-

    imperial coins). Their value for chronology is to place the gathering of the Sutton   HOD   coins some time after 

    Maurice's accession   in582. Provencal coins   in the name of Maurice appear to have been minted in two phases;

    first, with   a simple cross reverse, and, then with a circle separating the cross from the legend. The transition from

    type one to type two has been dated to about 595.' As two of the Sutton Hoo coins are of the later type, we have

    a tentative   terminus post quem   of 595 for the parcel.

    The only coin in the group with the name of a Frankish ruler identifies a king Theodcbert and has no mint

    designation [SH.2]. There were two Merovingian kings of this name: Theodebert It   in the first half of the sixth

    century, and Theodebert II, 595-{j12. Coins clearly of Theodebert I are closely modelled after those of his

    Byzantine contemporaries, and, like them, have a winged figure on the reverse. The Sutton Hoo piece bears a reverse cross, which is unknown in Mediterranean gold coinage until the fourth quarter of the sixth century." If 

    the Sutton Hoo coin were to be attributed. to Theodebert I, the cross would have to be seen as an innovation of his

    which was then ignored for    several   decades and then widely revived.   It is more likely that this coin is of 

    Tbeodebert II, following prototypes of Byzantine and quasi-imperial issues. This would give the only royal coin

    in the Sutton lIoo parcel a date of post-595, consistent with the two coins from the second period of the coinage

    of Maurice from Provence.

    While these four coins give a date of 595 after which the Sutton Hoo hoard must have been deposited, they are

    less useful for giving a date before which the parcel was assembled. The coins in the name of Maurice are from

    Provence, in the south of Frankish Gaul, so they may well be earlier than the bulk of coins, which were minted 

    nearer England. In so small an assemblage, the lack of later dated coins cannot be taken to demonstrate a burial

    during or soon after the reign of Maurice or Theodebert; to determine a date for the parcel as a whole, it is

    necessary to establish some sort of chronology for the other, non-royal, coins.'

    It is a peculiarity of Merovingian coins that few of them identify the ruler under whose authority they were

    minted; rather they identify a minting place on one side and an individual, sometimes qualified with the word 

    monetarius,   on the other. This is conveniently termed the "mint-and-minter" type as distinct from the "royal" coins,

    which bear the name of a king, and "quasi-imperial" coins, which bear the name of an emperor. Several hundred 

    'This paper is based to a great extent on data developed by   Oddy   for the 1975 Suuon Hoo publication, which are published with references

    for the   first   time in the Appendix, below. The analysis and chronological inferences are the contribution of Stahl. The Sutton Hoo coins

    are published in   J.   P. C. Kent, "The Coins and the Date of the Burial,' in R.   L. S. Bruce-Mitford,   The Sutton HOD Ship Burial,   vel. I (London 1975), 578-647; the best general introduction to Merovlngten coinage is P. Grierson and M. Blackburn,   MedieYQl European

    Coinage,   vol.   I,   The Early Middle Agl!s   (Cambridge 1986).

    1Sutton   Hoo coin 1 [SH.I] has an obverse legend which appears to be a garbled version of the name Justin or Justinian.   It is identified by

    S. E. Rigold as a derivative of coins of Justin ITand dated by him to around 590. See S. E. Rigold, •An Imperial Coinage in Southem Gaul

    in   the Sixth and Seventh   Centuries'i,"   NChron,   ser,   6,14   (1954),123, #10.

    JRigold, "Imperial Coinage," 113.

    (Ibid.,   96; W. Hahn,   Monera Imperii Byzantini,   vol. IT, Osterreichische Akademie der wieeenschaften, Phil. -Hist.   Kl.,  Denkschriften 119

    (Vienna 1975), 52-53.

    'In this discussion, the SUUon Hco coins are treated as a hoard, that is   /I   representative and random sample of circulating coins, rather than

    as a consciously selected group. This assumption is based on considerations discussed in A. M. Stahl, "The Nature ofIhe Sutton Hoo Coin

    Parcel,' in C. B. Kendall and P. S. Wclb (eds.)   Voyage 10 the Orher World:   Th e   Legacy of Sunon Hoo,   Medieval Studies   at   Minnesota 4

    (Minneapolis fortheoming), 3-14.


  • 8/20/2019 The date of the Sutton Hoo coins / Alan M. Stahl and W.A. Oddy


     Alan M. Stahl and W. A. Oddy

    mint names on Merovingian coins have been identified    with   settlements, ranging from the important political and 

    ecclesiastical centers of the realm to small villas and vici.

    Of the hundreds of minters' names on such coins, only one has been securely identified with an individual known

    from other sources. The minter Eligius was originally a goldsmith and became treasurer to king Chlothar II about

    625.' He also served under Dagobert I and Clovis II, and in 641 became Bishop of Noyon.   It is for his works

    in this latter post that he merited a nearly contemporary hagiographic biography, which is one of our few sources

    relating to Merovingian coinage. The name Eligius as   monetarius   appears on coins with each of the three kings

    he is documented to have served; other coins which have only his name and various mint names can be generally dated to 625-

  • 8/20/2019 The date of the Sutton Hoo coins / Alan M. Stahl and W.A. Oddy


    The   Date of the Sutton lIDo Coins

    decades of the seventh century, the mint-and-minter gold   tremisses   gave way to a coinage of silver   denurii,   with few legible legends.

    The only dates that can be assigned to Merovingian hoards with certainty are   termini post quem   taken from

    accession dates of the most recent rulers identified. Of the dozen known hoards of mint-and-minter coins, all but

    one have at least one "datable" coin in them, either Byzantine, quasi-imperial, Merovingian royal, Visigothic royal,

    or of the minter Eligius. Most of these hoards are small for none are more than sixty-five coins known with

    certainty - so arguments from the absence of later reigns are unreliable for providing   termini ante quem.   Inthe

    case of the quasi-imperial coins of Provence, it is not certain that a coin was struck during the lifetime of the ruler  identified on its obverse. Most Byzantine and royal coins can be dated only to within the entire reign of the person

    identified, but for Merovingian kings who ruled only a part of Gaul, a coin can be dated to the period in which that

    king ruled the suh-kingdom containing the mint identified.

    When grouped by their latest datable coins, the Merovingian hoards present a reasonably consistent picture."

    Two are from the third quarter of the sixth century: the Monneren (Lorraine)" and Velsen (Netherlands)'? hoards

    represent the end of pseudo-imperial coinage; both have imitation   tremisscs   in the name of Justinian (527-65) and 

    no quasi-imperial or mint-and-minter coins.

    The next phase dates to the end of the sixth century. The Escharen (Netherlands) hoard has Byzantine coins

    of Maurice Tiberius (582-602) and quasi-imperial coins in his name of the first type, without reverse   circle."   The

    Faversham (Kent) grave find of looped coins likewise has Provencal coins in the name of Maurice of type one. IS

    Both have mint-and-minter coins; the Escharen hoard includes coins of central Gaul of the anchored   cross/appendice

    perle   style and others with a style of obverse portrait produced in mints of northeast Gaul and referred to as the

    "Group II"   style."   None of the reverses of these mint-and-minter coins has a circle separating the cross from the


     As   we have seen, the Sutton Hoo hoard includes a coin of Theodehert II in addition to Provencal issues   in the

    name of Maurice. Two of the quasi-imperial coins are of the second type, and seven of the mint-and-minter coins

    alsc bear circles on the reverse [SH.28-34]. Like the Escharen hoard, the Sutton Hoo parcel has coins with the

    anchored-cross reverse [SH.17-25].   It also has a coin [SHA] of Group II style from the same dies as one in the

    Escharen hoard; these dies were considerably more worn by the time of the striking of the Sutton   HOD  specimen

    than for that   in the Escharen hoard. The Sutton Hoo hoard appears, then, to be somewhat later than the Escharen

    and Faversham finds. Three hoards have coins that give them a   terminus post quem   in the 610s. The Buis (Burgundy) hoard'? has

    a coin of Marseille in the name of