Late Roman precious metal deposits, c. AD 200-700 : changes over time and space
This thesis draws together more than 1,800 deposits of late Roman precious metals, namely coins, plate, jewellery, and bullion items, over a 500 year period (c. AD200- 700). Deposits from both West and East of the Empire, and beyond the frontiers, are included. Comparisons between these finds are made by focusing on three main aspects: spatial distribution, size, and date range of items within finds, by dividing the material into 22 deposition phases. A methodology has been developed allowing the size of each find to be compared, regardless of its internal structure and precious metal content (i.e. gold or silver), by assigning each find an Equivalent Gold Weight. Hence it is made possible to compare, for instance, a deposit of base metal silver coinage with a deposit of church silver plate, at least in terms of size, which previously has not been attempted. Past approaches to the interpretation and presentation of these finds are examined, with the aim of this research being to move away from traditional foci of study, namely the internal structure of hoards, epigraphy and iconography, and towards producing a background picture on a far broader level, chronologically and spatially. The deposition phases are surveyed in isolation, and then compared: changes in the focus of deposition activity are thus highlighted. The value of the approach adopted by this study with regard to our understanding of late Roman precious metal deposition is tested by comparing the recent late Roman find from Patching, West Sussex, with the database. Previous theoretical interpretations of hoard deposition are examined in the light of this body of evidence, for example, the question of the relationship between hoarding and social unrest, and the evidence for social traditions of deposition and ritual use of material in different areas within the study region. Finally, other areas of potentially productive future research, in addition to the themes explored in the previous chapters, are discussed.