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book image Numismatics
The Late Roman Gold and Silver Coins from the Hoxne Treasure  
By P.S.W. Guest
Illustrated. 184 pp.
British Museum Press . US$120.00
ISBN-10: 0714118109 / ISBN-13: 9780714118109

With The Late Roman Gold and Silver Coins from the Hoxne Treasure, author P.S.W. Guest has made an invaluable addition to the printed works of numismatics with the publication of his catalogue and discussion of the Hoxne coins.

The Hoxne coins were unearthed in Suffolk County, England in 1992. They are the largest known collection of its kind anywhere in the Roman Empire.

The Hoxne treasure dates from the early fifth century A.D., a time in British history that is still largely clouded in mystery. Study of the coins, along with other archaeologically significant items from the Hoxne site, has substantially increased archaeologists' and historians' understanding of fifth-century Britain, even supporting the recent historical theory that Roman departure from Britain may have been a more gradual process than has been previously believed.

The Hoxne treasure is known as a "hoard," a cache of buried treasure. Numerous hoards have been found in East Anglia as well as other parts of the Roman Empire. The 15,234 gold and silver coins in the Hoxne hoard, along with the gold jewelry and silver tableware found with them, comprise one of the most significant hoards ever uncovered.

In the fifth century, the strength of the Roman Empire was waning and their defensive capabilities were strained. At the same time, Britain faced increasingly serious attacks by land from invading Northern tribes and by water from pirates crossing the North Sea. Therefore, it is easy to surmise that families, churches, and other organizations would have adopted the practice of hiding valuables by packing them into chests and burying them in the ground.

Although this is an easy assumption, we find that it may incorrect, or at least incomplete. The author shows that this hoard, along with others, may not be the simple attempt to conceal treasure from barbarians that they appear, thus requiring another interpretation of this time in history.

The author has done justice to the importance of his topic. The Late Roman Gold and Silver Coins from the Hoxne Treasure goes beyond a complete catalog and detailed discussion of the items in the hoard. With careful attention to the history, production techniques, and chronology of Roman coinage, he includes a history with social perspective of precious metals and their place in Roman history.

This social perspective is enhanced with a discussion of the supply and demand of coinage in the late Roman Empire, along with their production at ancient mints. Guest's inclusion of the scientific analysis of the silver coins in the treasure will appeal to the armchair archaeologists among us. No less detailed is his discussion of the 428 imitation coins found in the Hoxne treasure.

The Late Roman Gold and Silver Coins from the Hoxne Treasure is a welcome addition to numismatist, archaeologist, and historian alike.

Sylvia Breau, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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