Artefact Conservation

On Tuesday six of us attended a briefing session at the Shirehall hosted by Debbie Harris from the Conservation Unit. The overall conclusion from the morning session was that our post excavation handling of the various materials that we encounter is generally in line with current best practice. The main problem area is Fe objects and since we cannot afford to x-ray every item, the most we can hope to achieve is to ensure that the items are as dry as possible before being packed away, and are stored with the proprietary silica gel packs.

Debbie was kind enough to make up a small conservation materials kit box for us. This contains small samples of all of the materials that we are likely to need when packing artefacts away, both immediately after excavation, and following completion of post excavation work. To that end Chrissy and I will be compiling a shopping list in the coming weeks so that we can be fully prepared for the next big dig.

Post Excavation Update No.6

Work has been progressing well on the identification of the coins from this Summer’s dig in Wymer Field so I thought I would share a few of the more interesting findings with you. After four hours spent in the company of Andy I am optimistic that the task is nearing completion, as I got him to check all of my preliminary IDs. As a newcomer to the subject I am very grateful to have this sort of assistance.

In total 27 objects provisionally identified as coins were recovered from the three trenches; 24 from Trench 1, 2 from Trench 2 and 1 from Trench 3. The reason for using this particular terminology will become clearer later in this posting.

The overall condition of these items ranged from the very fine example of the quinarius from the reign of Allectus, that could be read with the naked eye, or in my case with the aid of reading glasses, through to a number that were so badly encrusted or worn as to be attributed with a  degree of guesswork, based on size and what little could be discerned in the way of legends or Obverse and Reverse images.

I would like to highlight three particular items that in terms of our regular coin finds are a bit more unusual:

SF1040: This coin was quite challenging as it was somewhat different to anything I’d seen before. I could just about make out from the Obverse image that it was a radiate  but the Reverse image proved to be more challenging. I eventually figured out that what I was looking at was an animal of some sorts and this was the key to the eventual identification. This coin turned out to be an unusual one for us in that it comes from the reign of Gallienus and dates to AD 260 -268. The image on the Reverse is a striped tigress.

SF1041: This is a very nice large coin known as a Dupondius. It is similar in size to the Dupondius of the Emperor Vespasian that we recovered from a Test Pit a couple of years ago. I was pretty certain that this one wasn’t Vespasian when I first looked at it simply because his image is so distinctive. Again as with SF1040 the key to unlocking this one was on the Reverse where I could read the first part of the Legend. The image was of a seated female figure and I could make out the letters INDULG. The only figure that this can be is a Personification called Indulgentia. This together with what I could make out on the Obverse led me, following research, to the Emperor Antoninus Pius with this particular coin dating to AD 153 – 154. To the best of my knowledge the Caistor Roman Project has not previously had a coin from the period so it is an exciting find.

CRP16/1007/SF1041(1) – Version 3


SF3000: This was the solitary “coin” retrieved from Trench 3 (metal detected from the spoilheap) . Owing to it’s size it gave every impression of being a minim and indeed the finds bag was marked up as such. On examination under magnification I realised that I could make out the word “PRINCESS” so it was obviously not a minim. On the Reverse I thought I could read a date of “1848” which again gave me a clue as to where to look. With Andy’s help this object was identified as a Princess Helena miniature birth token, actually dated to 1846 and struck to commemorate the birth of Queen Victoria And Prince Albert’s third daughter and fifth child.

So there you have it, some really interesting finds in amongst the usual mid 4th Century stuff we are getting used to seeing at Caistor and I haven’t even mentioned the other non-coin, the rather lovely medieval Jetton.