University of Leicester
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At the Edge of Empire: Iron Age and Early Roman Metalwork in the East Midlands

posted on 2012-06-13, 11:37 authored by Julia Marie-Anne Farley
This thesis explores the encounter between East Midlands Iron Age communities and the Roman world from 150 BC to AD 150, through the study of coins and other small portable metalwork (brooches, miniatures, toiletry items, and horse-gear). It combines scientific analysis with an investigation of production evidence, hoarding patterns and the spatial distribution of artefacts to investigate the flows of knowledge and materials through social networks. A broader framework for interpretation is provided by comparison with early colonial North America (AD 1580–1775). The results illuminate the construction of new colonial identities through the interaction of Iron Age and Roman systems of value. Before 50 BC, British communities were enmeshed in Gallic prestige exchange networks. Gallic gold provided the raw materials for the first insular coin series: all were yellow-gold coins of a standard weight, suggesting a broadly shared discourse on the nature of coinage. After the Roman conquest of Gaul and Caesar’s expeditions to Britain, there was massive upheaval in insular coin production. The new red-gold and silver issues were most likely underwritten by gifts of Roman bullion to southern British client rulers. This study demonstrates that the circulation of bullion extended well beyond the client kingdoms, with communities in the East Midlands also using bullion to produce local coinage. The possible emergence of a prestige exchange system based on the circulation of precious-metal bullion, and the development of distinct regional coinage systems, are interpreted as reflecting creative local engagement with the Roman world. Through this interaction, communities in Iron Age Britain contributed to the mutual creation of new colonial systems of value. This thesis investigates the effects of these conquest-period changes on regional power relationships and networks of metalwork production and consumption, viewing coins as just one aspect of wider patterns of exchange and social interaction.



Haselgrove, Colin

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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