British Numismatic Society : Medals, Prizes   Funds
BNS Medal
The British Numismatic Society

Promoting the study of coins, medals, tokens and banknotes

Medals, Prizes & Funds


2016 Internships

Fiona Johnstone, British Museum

My BNS summer internship was based at the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum, London. My internship took place over one month, and was an unique opportunity which without the help of the BNS I would not have been able to experience. I studied under renowned experts in their fields, and hope to utilise what I have learnt to improve and develop my knowledge of numismatics.

The first two weeks of my internship coincided with the British Museum's Classical and Medieval Numismatic summer schools. This supplemented what I learned from my degree with specialist numismatic knowledge. The day started at 10am with lectures on a variety of topics, including Persian, Hellenistic and Iron Age coinage. The variety in topics was matched by my interest in ancient cultures, but also gave me greater knowledge on coinage that I was not as confident in. For example, my knowledge of medieval coinage has improved immensely since my time at the summer school, and I look forward to utilising this in the future. Lectures were supplemented by attending gallery talks and guided tours around the British Museum's special exhibitions. In particular, the guided tour around the Sicily exhibition brought to life a vibrant and historical island.

Outside of the museum, there were trips to notable London landmarks, including the Museum of London Archaeology and the Tower of London. The behind the scenes tour of the Museum of London Archaeology was a fantastic insight into a historically rich city.

The latter half of my internship was focused on the Barlaston I hoard from Staffordshire. This was a hoard of over 2,000 coins, of which all bar one were Roman radiates. I identified each coin by the emperor and then by the reverse, which were then uploaded onto the curator's catalogue. This was the basis for a treasure report. I also observed a valuation of another treasure case, which alongside the collation of this report furthered my understanding of the Treasure Act. I also spent time updating the British Museum's catalogue of Roman nummi. Some of the records were incomplete on the spreadsheet, so I researched and recorded the gaps, which included measurements, reverse/obverse types and Roman Imperial Coinage (RIC) numbers. A few tickets dated to the 19th century, and as a consequence were faded or poorly written in part. My cataloguing work gave me greater confidence in the use of spreadsheets and in handling a greater variety of Roman nummi.

Separate to my work, I was also given tours of the Conservation, Photographic and Treasure departments. This allowed me a greater insight into what work other departments within the museum did. These three departments conduct a lot of their work behind the scenes, meaning that it was an immense privilege to visit. My time at the British Museum was a once in a lifetime experience which I could not have had without the assistance of all the staff at the Coins and Medals Department, but especially for the British Numismatic Society for providing the funding which secured my work. I am grateful to all involved, and was made to feel so welcome in the department, there was always time for a cup of tea and chat about my work or how I wanted to progress. I have many fond memories of my time here, and will treasure my time at the British Museum for years to come.

Tristan Griffin, York Museums Trust

The BNS funded me to undertake an internship at the Yorkshire museum during August 2016, in which I worked with Dr Andrew Woods, the museum’s curator of numismatics, in cataloguing the museum’s collection of coins from the British Civil Wars, as well as answering some important research questions about the collection. I came into this internship with no specifically numismatic or even archaeological training, being a historian by discipline. I had worked on civil war siege coinage during my MPhil the previous year, but my studies had been largely limited to interpreting the design of these coins as a form of polemic; placing a great number of coin hoards into the context of civil war Yorkshire, and using them to explore the movement of armies throughout the county, was an entirely new analytical exercise for me.

The first task was a complete audit of all of the civil war material actually held by the museum, checking that we had every coin that our documentation said we had, and checking that it was all in the right place. We checked every single coin we had in the systematic collection from the reigns of James I, Charles I, and the rule of the commonwealth; and also checked every coin in the Breckenbrough hoard, which the museum possesses in full, as well as the fragments of the Thorpe Willoughby, Deighton and Thornton Bridge coins that are held in the museum. This process took about a week and a half, and in the end less than 10 coins, out of several thousand, could not be accounted for. However, merely confirming what we had was not the end of the cataloguing process, for the systematic collection now had to be uploaded onto the museum’s electronic catalogue, ADLIB. This involved the weighing and measuring of each coin, and recording their design in detail. This took up about another one and a half weeks, although that time was broken up with photographic sessions, complete with training, in which I was taught how to produce high-quality photographs of the coins to add to ADLIB.

The final, and the most important and interesting, task was the collation of all the of the information gathered over the previous three weeks, and its presentation in the form of a series of maps showing the deposition of hoards across Yorkshire on a year-by-year basis. This revealed two main points of interest, both of which suggested that it was possible to connect the deposition of hoards with the progress of military campaigning across Yorkshire that year. For example, during the 1641-1643 period the majority of hoards are deposited around the textile towns of the West Riding. This matches very well with what we know about the campaigns that year, as these towns were intensively fought over by the royalists and the parliamentarians, with towns such as Bradford changing hands more than once. Moreover, this proved not to be the only example of hoard deposition matching the progress of the armies. The majority of the hoards deposited in 1644 are to be found in the vale of Mobray, along the great north road; a distribution that correlates very well with the invasion of Yorkshire by the covenanter army that same year. As movement of large numbers of parliamentarian-allied covenanters into what had been a largely royalist region seems to have been the trigger for the deposition of large amounts of coins, either by local royalists or by those who feared that any support, however enforced by arms or purely commercial, for the royalist armies would be treated as evidence of ’malignancy’.

hoard map of Yorkshire
Fig 1. Hoards deposited in 1644, when the Covenanter army entered Yorkshire from the North.

I enjoyed my BNS placement at the Yorkshire museum a great deal, and learnt a vast amount about the professional practice of numismatics at a museum level, the differences between academic and public engagement with history, and the challenges of curating, such as the sheer amount of work, both in cataloguing and research, that goes into producing a museum exhibition. This knowledge is invaluable for me as I continue my academic career. I am starting a PhD in October, 2016, and intend to continue my work on siege coinage, now bolstered with my expanded knowledge about the deposition of coins throughout Yorkshire. I also hope to publish one or more articles in the near future pertaining to the research I completed during my internship, with the Yorkshire Museum’s permission. I would like to finish by thanking Dr Andrew Woods, the Yorkshire Museum and the British Numismatic Society for granting me this opportunity.

Christina Sanna, Salisbury Museum

The historical and museological context
In 1975 The Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum was gifted by HM Treasury of Pitt-Rivers' Wessex Collection, which gather the last 20 years of archaeological, ethnographical and anthropological research of the General Pitt Rivers, who can be considered the father of modern and scientific archaeology (Green 2014, pp. 224-243). The Collection is composed by a wide range of objects, pottery, wooden models and coins. For what concerns the last ones, a large number of them comes in particular from the excavations in Bokerley Dyke and Woodyates, published by the General himself into a series of volumes dedicated to the researches in Cranborne Chase area (Pitt-Rivers 1892).

Bokerley Dyke is a massive, linear earthwork about 5.75 Km long, composed by a ditch and bank. It was probably built during Bronze Age or Early Iron Age as a political boundary and then transformed and used by Romans with defensive purposes. Pitt Rivers had a strong interest in linear earthworks and started the excavation of the Dyke to discover the date of its construction. Two sections were cut through the ditch and the bank revealing a double bottom on the ditch, probably linked with two different construction phases. The coins found gave a dating to the fourth century AD (Bowden 1991, pp. 117-119).

The Dyke was crossed at the Bokerley Junction by a Roman road, known as Ackling Dyke, now replaced by a modern road (A 354). Trenching near the road the Geneal discovered the Roman settlement of Woodyates, identified as a mansio, official stopping place on a Roman road maintained by the central government (Thompson 1977, pp. 100-102).

As part of the "Finding Pitt-Rivers" Project, founded by Arts Council England, The Salisbury Museum has started a systematic revision of Wessex Collection and developed an on-line, open access database. This will allow the public to search for any object from the Pitt-Rivers collection and obtain information about its identification, dimensions, period and area of discovery. In 1990 David Algar analysed the coins from Woodyates and Bokerley Dyke. However, not all the coins were identified and they were not recorded on the museums database. Before my internship researching and recording the coins we knew of 802 coins from Bokerley Dike and 374 coins from Woodyates.

The project

The award of a British Numismatic Society internship in June 2016 led to the reanalysis and recording of the entire assemblages from Bokerley Dike and Woodyates. The majority of the coins had not been identified for over 100 years. Within the catalogue each coin was systematically recorded to allow for detailed study on the coins in the future.

At Woodyates 386 coins, still preserved inside the original wooden display cases made for Pitt-Rivers, has now been identified and recorded. The chronological range of the group goes from the Claudian period to Late Roman period. It was not possible to assign a Reece period for forty of the analysed coins.

More detailed information can be deduced form the analysis of Bokerly Dike excavation, that after my internship has a total of 852 coins. The analysis highlights a significant concentration of coins (371 in total, almost 43% of the group) struck during the period AD 330-348. To these is associated a second concentration, smaller but nevertheless meaningful, struck between AD 348-364. The majority of the coins inserted within these two ensembles can be traced back to the emperors Constantius II and Constans. The reverse types are also quite repetitive whit an overwhelming majority of GLORIA EXERCITVS type, VICTORIAE DD AVGG QNN type and FEL TEMP REPARATIO type, this last in the variant that represents the Phoenix on a rock or a globe.

This unusual pattern suggests the possible presence of a hoard composed by a homogenous set of nummi, not recognized at the time of the excavation. A detailed analysis of Pitt Rivers' report it is still in progress but it seems likely to locate the highest concentration within South-East half of the Section 2, as demonstrated by the wooden model of Bokerly Dike excavation, which notes, into an area about 12m, the discovery of 584 coins, covering a chronological range that goes from Gallienus to Honorius.

If this idea will be confirmed by further investigations, the entire dating of the excavation could change as well as the interpretation of the construction phases. In my opinion is also interesting to note the close distance between the hoard and the settlement of Woodyates, suggesting a possible link between coin hoards and mansiones in the Roman Britain.

Green, Adrian 2014. "Salisbury Museum and General Pitt-Rivers's Wessex Collection, 1975-2014". In: Museum History Journal. Volume 7 (2014), pp. 224-243.
Pitt-Rivers, A.H.L.F. 1982. Excavations in Bokerley Dyke and Wansdyke Dorset and Wilts 1888-91, vol III of Cranborne Chase. Rushmore: privately printed.
Bowden, Mark 1991. Pitt Rivers: The Life and Archaeological Work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thompson, M.W. 1977. General Pitt-Rivers: Evolution and Archaeology in the Nineteenth Century. Bradford-on-Avon: Moonraker Press.