Tag Archives: England

Huge find of silver coins provides new clues to turbulent times after Norman Conquest of England


Tom Licence, University of East Anglia

With their metal detectors and spades “detectorists” are a common sight in the British countryside. When their equipment bleeps, they start to dig in the hope of finding something old and valuable. They are often seen as figures of fun – in fact, the BBC shows a comedy series about a pair of such amateur archaeologists which has a cult following. But part-time treasure hunters do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to discovering antiquities buried in fields across the UK.

Two such detectorists, Lisa Grace and Adam Staples, recently uncovered a haul of more than 2,000 silver coins in Somerset in the south-west of England, dating back to the turbulent period following the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

In the years after William of Normandy defeated Harold II and took the throne, the Norman invaders were confronted by frequent rebellion. They responded by planting castles to subdue the population. The coin hoard found in the Chew Valley in Somerset dates from the years of unrest when William was establishing himself on the throne.

One of the largest hoards ever recovered from the years around 1066, it includes more than 1,000 coins minted in Harold’s name and a similar number in William’s. Harold had been king for only ten months at the time of his defeat and death in battle, so all the coins of Harold date from no earlier than January 1066. Some may have been minted in his name after his death, as a desperate measure by survivors to hold the regime together in the two months that elapsed between the Battle of Hastings and William’s coronation. Funds were very important at moments when the succession to the throne lay in doubt.

It is certain at any rate that whoever concealed the hoard was a person of high rank, probably one of the nobility – a circle of no more than 150 landed aristocrats, many of whom were related. A coin hoard of this size may have been to pay for an army. But we might only guess whose army or whether the hoarder was a supporter or opponent of the Norman regime.

Rivals for the English throne: William of Normandy (left) watches as Harold Godwinson apparently swears fealty.
Bayeux Tapestry

Historians have long disputed whether Harold succeeded to the throne with the approval of his predecessor and brother-in-law, the childless Edward the Confessor, or seized the throne in haste to prevent it falling to another candidate. The strongest claimants in the latter camp were Edward the Confessor’s great-nephew Edgar and William of Normandy, his second cousin, who argued that Edward had promised the throne to him.

Money and power

Coin evidence assists in this debate by showing the extent to which Harold was able to control mints up and down the country. Regimes which had only a shaky hold on power were unable to control all the mints, some of which struck coins in the names of their rivals. This happened in the early years of Harold I’s regime (1035-7), when mints in southern England struck coins in the name of his rival Harthacnut.

In the case of Harold II, though his legitimacy was in doubt, his control of the mints suggests a strong hold on power from the outset. Indeed the hoard is likely to provide specimens of coins minted at unrecorded mints and by previously unknown moneyers.

Historians also debate the extent to which the invasion of 1066 disrupted the operations of the Anglo-Saxon state. The presence in the hoard of a large sample of coins issued by William at the start of his reign will help shed new light on the era.

The portrait, design and text on William’s coins, moreover, reveals how he wanted his subjects to see him. A coin is not only a unit of currency – it is a tool of propaganda. Harold’s coins, ironically, bore the legend “PAX” (peace). It was a signal of his aspirations on becoming king.

The haul included coins minted by William the Conqueror (left) and Harold II.
Pippa Pearce/Trustees of the British Museum

Today Harold’s coins are keenly sought by collectors, being rare and evocative our nation’s story. Hoarded coins are often in fresh condition and each should command a high market value.

Rewarding hobby

Since the advent of the hobby of metal detecting in the 1970s, most hoards and single finds have been located by detectorists. Their painstaking efforts have resulted in the discovery of great treasures of recent years, including the Staffordshire Hoard and the Winfarthing pendant.

On most outings, detectorists find little or nothing. Most spend years in the hobby and never find a hoard. Thanks to a system of recording in place since the launching of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, more and more of their discoveries are now being reported.

The law requires that all finds of treasure be reported to the coroner within 14 days of discovery or of the finder’s realisation that the find might be treasure as defined by the Treasure Act of 1996. Any item of precious metal more than 300 years old, any two or more gold or silver coins, or a group of base metal coins, and any associated artefacts, such as a pot in which coins are buried, is treasure as defined by the Act.

All reported treasure items are entered in the online database of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Their details are thereby captured for the nation, even if the finds are often returned to the finder. No hoard of Norman Conquest coins on the scale of the Chew Valley hoard has come to light for many years.

It is a reminder that the passions of hobbyists frequently turn up great benefits for everyone. And it is also a reminder of England’s turbulent past.The Conversation

Tom Licence, Professor of Medieval History and Consumer Culture, School of History, University of East Anglia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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For more visit:
https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-short-life-of-must-farm.html


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For more visit:
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Why the Pilgrims were actually able to survive



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‘Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor’ by William Halsall (1882).
Pilgrim Hall Museum

Peter C. Mancall, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Sometime in the autumn of 1621, a group of English Pilgrims who had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and created a colony called New Plymouth celebrated their first harvest.

They hosted a group of about 90 Wampanoags, their Algonquian-speaking neighbors. Together, migrants and Natives feasted for three days on corn, venison and fowl.

In their bountiful yield, the Pilgrims likely saw a divine hand at work.

As Gov. William Bradford wrote in 1623, “Instead of famine now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.”

But my recent research on the ways Europeans understood the Western Hemisphere shows that – despite the Pilgrims’ version of events – their survival largely hinged on two unrelated developments: an epidemic that swept through the region and a repository of advice from earlier explorers.

A ‘desolate wilderness’ or ‘Paradise of all parts’?

Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation,” which he began to write in 1630 and finished two decades later, traces the history of the Pilgrims from their persecution in England to their new home along the shores of modern Boston Harbor.

William Bradford’s writings depicted a harrowing, desolate environment.

Bradford and other Pilgrims believed in predestination. Every event in their lives marked a stage in the unfolding of a divine plan, which often echoed the experiences of the ancient Israelites.

Throughout his account, Bradford probed Scripture for signs. He wrote that the Puritans arrived in “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.” They were surrounded by forests “full of woods and thickets,” and they lacked the kind of view Moses had on Mount Pisgah, after successfully leading the Israelites to Canaan.

Drawing on chapter 26 of the Book of Deuteronomy, Bradford declared that the English “were ready to perish in this wilderness,” but God had heard their cries and helped them. Bradford paraphrased from Psalm 107 when he wrote that the settlers should “praise the Lord” who had “delivered them from the hand of the oppressor.”

If you were reading Bradford’s version of events, you might think that the survival of the Pilgrims’ settlements was often in danger. But the situation on the ground wasn’t as dire as Bradford claimed.

The French explorer Samuel de Champlain depicted Plymouth as a region that was eminently inhabitable.
Source., Author provided

Earlier European visitors had described pleasant shorelines and prosperous indigenous communities. In 1605, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed past the site the Pilgrims would later colonize and noted that there were “a great many cabins and gardens.” He even provided a drawing of the region, which depicted small Native towns surrounded by fields.

About a decade later Captain John Smith, who coined the term “New England,” wrote that the Massachusetts, a nearby indigenous group, inhabited what he described as “the Paradise of all those parts.”

‘A wonderful plague’

Champlain and Smith understood that any Europeans who wanted to establish communities in this region would need either to compete with Natives or find ways to extract resources with their support.

But after Champlain and Smith visited, a terrible illness spread through the region. Modern scholars have argued that indigenous communities were devastated by leptospirosis, a disease caused by Old World bacteria that had likely reached New England through the feces of rats that arrived on European ships.

The absence of accurate statistics makes it impossible to know the ultimate toll, but perhaps up to 90 percent of the regional population perished between 1617 to 1619.

To the English, divine intervention had paved the way.

“By God’s visitation, reigned a wonderful plague,” King James’ patent for the region noted in 1620, “that had led to the utter Destruction, Devastacion, and Depopulation of that whole territory.”

The epidemic benefited the Pilgrims, who arrived soon thereafter: The best land had fewer residents and there was less competition for local resources, while the Natives who had survived proved eager trading partners.

The wisdom of those who came before

Just as important, the Pilgrims understood what to do with the land.

By the time that these English planned their communities, knowledge of the Atlantic coast of North America was widely available.

Those hoping to create new settlements had read accounts of earlier European migrants who had established European-style villages near the water, notably along the shores of Chesapeake Bay, where the English had founded Jamestown in 1607.

These first English migrants to Jamestown endured terrible disease and arrived during a period of drought and colder-than-normal winters. The migrants to Roanoke on the outer banks of Carolina, where the English had gone in the 1580s, disappeared. And a brief effort to settle the coast of Maine in 1607 and 1608 failed because of an unusually bitter winter.

Many of these migrants died or gave up. But none disappeared without record, and their stories circulated in books printed in London. Every English effort before 1620 had produced accounts useful to would-be colonizers.

The most famous account, by the English mathematician Thomas Harriot, enumerated the commodities that the English could extract from America’s fields and forests in a report he first published in 1588.

The artist John White, who was on the same mission to modern Carolina, painted a watercolor depicting the wide assortment of marine life that could be harvested, another of large fish on a grill, and a third showing the fertility of fields at the town of Secotan. By the mid-1610s, actual commodities had started to arrive in England too, providing support for those who had claimed that North American colonies could be profitable. The most important of these imports was tobacco, which many Europeans considered a wonder drug capable of curing a wide range of human ailments.

These reports (and imports) encouraged many English promoters to lay plans for colonization as a way to increase their wealth. But those who thought about going to New England, especially the Pilgrims who were kindred souls of Bradford, believed that there were higher rewards to be reaped.

Bradford and the other Puritans who arrived in Massachusetts often wrote about their experience through the lens of suffering and salvation.

But the Pilgrims were better equipped to survive than they let on.The Conversation

Peter C. Mancall, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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