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Title: Coining the coin-tree : contextualising a contemporary British custom
Author: Houlbrook, Ceri
ISNI:       0000 0004 5993 8052
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis offers an archaeological and ethnographic examination of the coin-tree custom, which is essentially what its name suggests: the practice of inserting coins into trees. These trees are often in the form of logs or stumps, and they are commonly located beside well-traversed footpaths in rural/semi-rural areas. The custom can be traced back to the 1860s in Scotland, but has experienced a late 20th/early 21st-century renaissance, with clusters of coin-trees emerging across England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. No previous academic attempt has been made to either catalogue these structures or contextualise the practice; it is the aim of this thesis, therefore, to do both. Proffering a catalogue of 197 individual coin-trees distributed across 34 sites (detailed in the appendices), this thesis draws on a wide range of resources in order to elucidate the custom: literary works, both historical and contemporary; the empirical data of the coin-trees themselves; and the ethnographic material of over 200 participant interviews. The history of the custom is traced, including a consideration of why it has experienced a recent resurgence – particularly at a time popularly conceived of as a ‘secular age’. The questions of how and why people participate are examined in detail, revealing a mutability to the ‘meaning’ of the custom, and a consideration of the future and heritage of the coin-tree structures themselves is also offered. The thesis closes with a suppositional vignette: what would an archaeologist find if she uncovered a coin-tree site in the future? How would she interpret the remains? And what does this reveal about archaeological methodologies, ritual interpretations, and the relationship between folklore and material culture?
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Coin-tree ; Contemporary custom ; Folklore archaeology