Coining Values Bronze between money and scrap in late Roman and early medieval Europe : Call for papers

Appel à publications pour l’Internationale Tagung/International Conference
Bonn, October 26–28, 2023

Date limite : March 31, 2023

Base metal fragments from archaeological sites in the Roman Northwest and adjacent Barbaricum were never a controversial find group. Favoured for their chronological or socio-cultural potential, they are largely classed as recycling material up until Late Antiquity. At that time, however, coinage experiences a massive change. Bronze coins become increasingly devalued before entirely disappe- aring from the monetary system during the first half of the 5th century AD. The archaeological record reflects this transformation in a complex, enigmatic manner. Viewed together, the practices surrounding coins and ‘scrap’ reveal a myriad of questions concerning possible meanings of value and their transformations.

In some instances, people tried to melt down bronze coins, in order to recycle them: was this devaluation or valorisation? On one hand, some excavations yield carpet-like layers of scattered coins. Were they lost—or discarded? On the other, the Theodosian bronze coin hoards must also be taken into account: stashes of value or waste metal rendered useless? On the same note, the ques- tion arises whether artefacts were fragmented into weighted units—as is the case for the well- known (Hack-)silver. If so, for what purpose, and on which chronological, regional and quantitative scale? Did Hackbronze, occasionally or even regularly, hold para-monetary functions equal to small ingots?

‘What’s aught but as ‘tis valued?’ (W. Shakespeare): The conference is an opportunity to discuss and examine how to reconstruct transformations in practice such as the above toward coins and base metal artefacts, thus assessing the significance of bronze within material culture. Ideally, this enab- les us to approach not only the extent of monetisation, but also rarely-identified material—and immaterial values and meanings which in turn can be linked to the material practice as well as the created artefacts.

The conference offers space for an international forum at the intersection of both Roman (Provin- cial) and early Historic archaeology, and Numismatics. The issues to be raised concern the base metal coins in the archaeological record, their circulation and manners of reuse, phenomena around counterfeits and local imitations, as well as practices regarding copper alloy artefacts: origin and production, transport and trade. Special attention will be paid to fragmentation, reuse, deposition and loss. Supraregional trends and small-scale observations are equally welcome. The geographic focus is on the Roman Northwestern provinces including the British Isles and the adjacent—as well as more distant—regions of European Barbaricum.