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 The Jersey hoard - the Caesar Effect

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nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ


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PostSubject: The Jersey hoard - the Caesar Effect   Wed 27 Jun 2012, 14:18

The news today that the largest Iron Age hoard ever found in Northern Europe was unearthed by two metal detectorists in a field in Jersey is exciting, not just in the purely archaeological sense that the estimated 50,000 items must surely provide us with data concerning the political and economic life in Gaul, Belgia and Britannia at this time, but probably more importantly in that it provides us with what looks like physical evidence for the huge upheavals engendered by Caesar's relentless subjugation of the Gallic tribes who stood between him and his political regeneration.

While it is very much early days with regard to analysing anything from this find as yet (the hoard itself is still encased in compacted earth which will take months of skilled labour to dismantle), the current most-plausible theory is that this was an individual's or a group's attempt to secure their wealth as they fled or were pushed northwards by events further south. If so it will not just throw light on what was actually going on in Gaul (much of what we presume to know comes from Caesar himself, hardly an unbiased source) but also on developments elsewhere - and in the process throw some light on the actual relationship between the tribes in these areas. Caesar's assertion that British and Gallic tribes were very closely tied has always been one which invited suspicion - it was in Caesar's self-interest to make such a claim, especially when justifying his own excursion into British territory. But what no one is really sure of is the actual political and social status of the Channel Island inhabitants at the time. Bronze Age finds in the islands seem to indicate a strong cultural affinity with Armorica and Northern Gaul. By the Iron Age this picture is not quite as clear cut however - there is also indication that even before Caesar changed the political landscape for ever there had occurred some Britification of the inhabitants, whether through aggressive or non-aggressive means.

The contents of this hoard will do much, we can only hope, to contribute to our knowledge of this crucial transitionary phase in European history. What was being hidden, and who it was being hidden from will help delineate the political and social borders and fracture lines which pertained right in the middle of Caesar's Gallic campaign.





PS: This kind of thing nearly makes metal detectorists human Smile
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Islanddawn
Censura


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PostSubject: Re: The Jersey hoard - the Caesar Effect   Wed 27 Jun 2012, 14:57

This is an unbelievable find, and up to 50,000 coins! Who could have possibly hoarded so many? It is almost like an army's pay?

Pity it will take so long to clean and assess, I want answers now!
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Caro
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PostSubject: Re: The Jersey hoard - the Caesar Effect   Wed 27 Jun 2012, 23:06

I don't suppose there will be access to this for the general public, but it sounds like another good reason to visit Jersey.

Our news usually mentions finds like this, but I can't find anything on the online news site for world news - it has Syrian problems, asylum seekers capsizing off the coast of Australia, Rupert Murdoch's empire, Angela Merkel saying something, the Queen shaking hands in Ireland, floods in Bangladesh and landslides in Uganda, but nothing that you would call positive news and nothing about this exciting find. There was a big one in England recently (or maybe Wales or Scotland - I should have said Britain) that got quite a bit of attention in the news.

Could one hoard, though, bring any certainty to relations between various tribes and cultures? Will it not just mean more and different interpretations between experts?
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Jersey hoard - the Caesar Effect   Wed 27 Jun 2012, 23:17

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Anglo-Norman
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PostSubject: Re: The Jersey hoard - the Caesar Effect   Wed 27 Jun 2012, 23:23

These 50,000-odd coins go with another 12,000 or so found in the same field in 1935. The find is known to include some Roman coinage. How it got there would be interesting to know; the obvious reason is trade; although payment in kind (wine, for example) was be quite usual, if not the norm, precious metal would always be welcome, whatever the currency. Perhaps the loot of a Roman defeat. This is, of course, assuming that it's a war relic was buried by a Celt (as seems most likely) rather than a particularly lucky Roman soldier!

Evidence for a Roman presence in Jersey is frustratingly thin - the usual coins and pottery, a small Gallo-Roman Temple, and a reused pillar base. It's been postulated that the Classis Britannica had a substation in the Islands; more likely in Guernsey (which unlike Jersey has a natural deep-water harbour), although they may have been signal stations in the other Islands. Alderney has the Nunnery, a later (14th C onwards) fortification which may include the remains of a late Roman fort. A native of Sark appears to have retired from the Misenum Fleet in AD71 (his diploma of discharge still survives).

Despite the potential history the coins could reveal, annoying the media seem more interested in their modern financial value.

Incidentally, I used to work with the chap in the picture! He's Neil Mahrer, Jersey Heritage's Conservator - amongst other things we worked on the conservation of an 18th century sloop-of-war (or what was left of it! 200 years, a shipwreck and burial on a beach had not been kind...), and repacking Paleolithic mammoth and other mammal remains from the 1970s (which is to say, originally excavated in the '70s - mammoths didn't survive quite that long in Jersey...)
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Anglo-Norman
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PostSubject: Re: The Jersey hoard - the Caesar Effect   Wed 27 Jun 2012, 23:31

@Caro wrote:
I don't suppose there will be access to this for the general public, but it sounds like another good reason to visit Jersey...

Could one hoard, though, bring any certainty to relations between various tribes and cultures? Will it not just mean more and different interpretations between experts?

Jersey Heritage sometimes have conservation work taking place that can be publicly viewed. This could well be of sufficiently high profile to warrant that. Otherwise, once the legal side has been sorted out and assuming that Jersey Heritage/the Société Jersiaise still have care of the hoard, I would be very surprised if it didn't go on display - probably either at the Jersey Museum, or at the archaeological museum the Société run at La Hougue Bie Neolithic Tomb.

As to debate and certainty, doubtless it will cause endless debate but it might, if not bring certainty, at least shed additional light on the subject.
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Anglo-Norman
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PostSubject: Re: The Jersey hoard - the Caesar Effect   Mon 09 Jul 2012, 19:10

Turns out that there's more than coins to the hoard; apparently items including what seems to be gold and silver jewellery have been found: Article
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: The Jersey hoard - the Caesar Effect   Mon 09 Jul 2012, 20:41

It gets more interesting, hopefully the new discoveries in the hoard will give us some clues as to who and why it buried on Jersey.
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