BMCR 2022.09.37

Ein Hortfund spätantiker Bronzemünzen aus Meckel, Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm

, Ein Hortfund spätantiker Bronzemünzen aus Meckel, Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm. 7486 Prägungen vom 3. Jahrhundert bis zur tetrarchisch-konstantinischen Zeit, verborgen 312/13 n. Chr. Trierer Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Kunst des Trierer Landes und seiner Nachbargebiete, 38. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2021. Pp. 450; 294 plates. ISBN 9783752000030 €78,00.

The Meckel hoard consists of 7,486 billon (copper-silver alloy) Roman coins dating from between AD 256 and 312/313, over 7,000 of which are nummi (the volume uses the standard German term “folles”) struck after Diocletian’s coinage reform of 294. It is one of the largest hoards of the period from the north-west provinces and an invaluable source of information on the coinage of the tetrarchic and early Constantinian periods.

The hoard was discovered on a Friday afternoon in June 2010 by a licensed metal detectorist. Unable to reach the relevant archaeological authorities, he recovered the hoard himself. Unfortunately, over the weekend he then cleaned the coins himself and separated any that adhered to one another, thus leading to the loss of information on any rolls or bags of coins the hoard might have contained. The coins were quickly transferred to the Landesmuseum in Trier, and a subsequent archaeological investigation confirmed the location of the hoard and that all the coins had probably been recovered.

The original intention of building a larger research project around the analysis of the hoard did not come to fruition, and the author, Valeria Selke, cannot be praised highly enough for producing the publication in effectively her spare time. Given these constraints, the decision was taken to present only a detailed catalogue of the hoard, together with a brief commentary, in order to make the hoard available for future research.

The commentary details the hoard’s discovery, composition, numerous previously unrecorded types and variants, metrology, observations on the figure of the genius on the reverse of the coins of the first and second tetrarchies, and die links (only four of which were observed). Hoards from the north-west provinces serve as comparative material. The closing date of the hoard can be determined with a high degree of precision to late 312/early 313: it contains issues produced for Constantine I at Rome after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on 28 October 312, but no coins from the mint of Arles, which opened in 313. The commentary concludes with an excursus on the ever thorny question of the purchasing power of the hoard. As there is no absolute certainty as to the value of the tetrarchic nummus, Selke, who is well aware of the difficulties involved, uses two variants (5 and 12 ½ denarii communes), and assigns to the reduced issues of 307–312/313 the lower value. The two totals for the hoard’s value are then compared with a range of wares and services from Diocletians’s Price Edict, leading to the conclusion that the hoard probably represents the coins required to cover the running costs incurred by the owner of a villa. On the value of the reformed antoniniani of Aurelian, it should be noted that Selke assumes that the numerals XXI on many of them are a mark of value, ignoring the evidence from metal analyses which demonstrate that the numerals indicate the copper to silver ratio of the coins.[1]

The commentary is followed by sixty-two pages of tables covering a wide range of aspects of the composition of the hoard and comparative material, and a 349-page catalogue with detailed descriptions of all of the coins (strangely, no dates are given for the coins struck prior to the Diocletianic reform). The volume is completed by 294 plates with 1:1 photos of all the coins and a drawing of the pot that contained the coins and the bowl used as a lid.

The volume itself is produced to the usual high quality typical of the Landesmuseum in Trier. While the generous presentation of the hoard is to be applauded, since the volume is available as an eBook (the reviewer only had access to the print version), one does rather wonder why more use was not made of digital possibilities. Given that the publication is intended to facilitate future research, a structured digital publication of, for example, some of the tables and higher resolution photos would greatly enhance re-usability. Presumably the coins were recorded in a database or spreadsheet, and online publication would facilitate their incorporation into linked open data resources such as Online Coins of the Roman Empire, thus significantly increasing the visibility and impact of the enormous effort that went into the production of this volume.

A manuscript on several hundred metal analyses carried out on the hoard could not be included because of the premature death of the author, Josef Riederer. There are plans for it to be published separately in the Trierer Zeitschrift.

 

Notes

[1] J. P. Callu, C. Brenot, and J. N. Barrandon, ‘Analyses de séries atypiques. Aurélien. Tacite. Carus. Licinius’. Numismatica e antichità classiche. Quaderni ticinesi 8 (1979): 241–54.