The Mycenaean Cemetery at Achaia Clauss near Patras: People, material remains and culture in context

Constantinos Paschalidis introduces his new volume with Archaeopress reporting on excavations of a Mycenaean cemetery, located by the historic Achaia Clauss wine factory, near Patras, Greece.

This work comprises the study of the finds from the excavation of the University of Ioannina and the Archaeological Society at Athens in the Mycenaean cemetery, located by the historic Achaia Clauss wine factory, near Patras. The research was carried out between the years 1988-1992 under the direction of Professor T. Papadopoulos (figs 1, 2). The presentation of the topic expands into seven thematic chapters, proceeding from the whole to the parts – and then returning to the whole. Thus, one progresses from the general review of the cemetery space and the sites, to the analytical description of the excavation, to the remarks on the architecture, to the study of the finds, to the analysis of the burial customs and finally to the narration of the overall history of the cemetery according to chronological period and generation of its people. The eighth and last chapter is an addendum including a presentation of the anthropological analysis of the skeletal material.

Fig. 01
Fig. 1. The vineyard of Achaia Clauss wine factory as it looks from the cemetery site.
Fig. 02
Fig. 2. The vineyard of Achaia Clauss and the Koukouras hill with the Mycenaean cemetery at its feet, seen from the wine factory.

More precisely, the study is organized as follows: Chapter 1 includes a complete and brief catalogue of the Mycenaean sites in Achaea. The cemetery site is described separately with special mention of the neighbouring excavations (fig. 3). Furthermore, in this chapter the distribution and character of the sites across the entire territory is examined and presented as a general overview.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Fig. 3. The Mycenaean settlement on top of the Mygdalia hill, overlooking the Achaia Clauss cemetery at the foot of the Koukouras hill (right), the plain and the gulf of Patras.

In Chapter 2, the description of the tombs is to be found, arranged into three parts for each in turn. The first section focuses on the description of the tomb’s architecture and the clustering and appearance of the finds in it. The second part sums up all the above evidence, following the chronological sequence of the burials. The third part displays, through easy-to-understand tables, the burials along with the gender, the age and the grave-goods of each individual, grouped in chronological order of introduction into the tomb. These tables also record any other non-burial episode that has been attested through the history of the chambers, in chronological order too.

In Chapter 3, the area of Clauss is examined, as well as the layout of the cemetery (figs 4, 5), the architecture of the tombs, the bedrock, the manner of construction and the structural problems related to them.

Chapter 4 contains the analytical catalogue of the finds in each tomb, recorded according to their excavation numbering, accompanied by the corresponding Museum of Patras inventory number. The catalogue contains one or more photos and drawings of each find, its detailed description and bibliographical documentation with parallels selected mainly from published assemblages from the rest of Achaea, Elis and the nearby Ionian islands.

Chapter 5 deals with the analytical presentation of the finds from the cemetery (figs 6a-b), citing typological parallels from the entire Mycenaean world, including comments on their use in the cemetery and in their era, in general. The examination of the finds is arranged according to category: pottery, bronze, bone, stone finds, along with minor objects made of various materials (spindle whorls, seals, beads and a figurine).

In Chapter 6, the burial customs of the cemetery (fig. 7) are discussed as these emerge from the investigation of the archaeological finds and the results of the osteological study by Dr Photini J. P. McGeorge, whose full analysis is not included in the present work and by DrWiesław Więckowski, whose report is presented in Chapter 8.

Fig. 07
Fig. 07. The couple of warrior and his partner from chamber tomb Θ at Clauss. (Drawing by Y. Nakas).

Chapter 7 sums up all of the research data into a brief and concise overview of the burials according to chronological period and generation (phases 1-6 of the LH ΙΙΙC period), with reference to the society that the Clauss people and their contemporaries in the rest of Achaea had brought into being, and with a presentation of the cemetery’s history.

In Chapter 8, Dr Photini J.P. McGeorge presents her detailed study of cremation Θ in tomb N, while Dr Wiesław Więckowski offers the results of his study on the anthropological material from alcove I and tombs K-N.

The richly illustrated documentation of the tombs derives from the archive of the excavation. The photographs of the nearby Mycenaean settlement at Mygdalia Petrotou (fig. 3) come from the archive of its ongoing excavation project and contribute to the understanding of the region’s archaeological landscape. The presentation of the data tables at the end of this book (Appendix) facilitates the comprehension of specific aspects of the cemetery (burial practices according to gender and age, grave-goods according to gender/age/generation, demographic data per generation etc.).

9781784919191
C.Paschalidis et al. The Mycenaean Cemetery at Achaia Clauss near Patras, Archaeopress Archaeology (2018)

The publication of the Mycenaean cemetery at Clauss near Patras, yields information on various aspects of an unknown society situated at the periphery of the Mycenaean world, soon before its gradual end. It presents in a concise way the material culture of the society: the products of the local pottery workshops and their distribution, the metalworking industry of Achaea, the imported bronze objects from the Adriatic coasts, and discuss the role played by the NW Peloponnese in the distribution of these bronze objects throughout the rest of the Postpalatial world.

The detailed presentation of innumerous aspects of the material culture is followed by an analysis of other less tangible aspects of this society such as: the burial customs, the demographics of the cemetery, the palaeopathological findings, signs of social differentiation based on burial practices and offerings, details of family life (fig. 7), habits, and stereotypes, and any other unexpected finds from a society, which despite our ambitious approach remains anonymous, largely unknown, and enigmatic.

The study of the Mycenaean cemetery at Clauss near Patras, offers the chance to enlighten the ‘golden era’ of the NW Peloponnese in the years of the deep crisis that followed the fall of the Mycenaean palaces.

Constantinos Paschalidis
Curator of Antiquities
National Archaeological Museum, Athens

Sincerest thanks to Constantinos for providing this latest entry for the Archaeopress Blog. The Mycenaean Cemetery at Achaia Clauss near Patras is expected to publish late November/early December 2018. Further information on our website here: http://www.archaeopress.com/ArchaeopressShop/Public/displayProductDetail.asp?id={F7224A06-B955-4A45-9279-2A242F2BC99B}

The Upper Tigris in Antiquity: a disappearing cultural heritage

Anthony Comfort and Michal Marciak have written a study of the upper Tigris in antiquity, published in August as How Did the Persian King of Kings Get his Wine? (Archaeopress Archaeology, 2018). This monograph examines an area which has been mostly inaccessible to scholars and looks likely to remain so – despite its great interest and strategic importance during the conflict between Rome and Persia.

The Kasrik gorge from the north (Photo by Michał Marciak 2014)
The Kasrik gorge from the north (Photo by Michał Marciak 2014)

The publication follows completion of the Ilısu dam, not far from the point at which the modern borders of Turkey, Iraq and Syria meet. When filled the reservoir created by the dam will do serious damage to the environment but also to the cultural heritage of the region; it is obliterating various sites along the river Tigris which are crucial to our understanding of the region’s history and archaeology.

The east bank fort at the Kasrik gorge (Photo by Anthony Comfort 2005)
The east bank fort at the Kasrik gorge (Photo by Anthony Comfort 2005)

Apart from the importance of the valley for river and road transport, there are also many rock reliefs which are described in the monograph. It is very sad that the current security situation in South-East Turkey makes many of these reliefs, as well as the sites along the river itself, inaccessible. In Iraqi Kurdistan the situation is better but the Tigris valley there is still difficult to visit for researchers and visitors.

The ‘citadel_ of Hasankeyf (Photo by Anthony Comfort 2005)
The ‘citadel’ of Hasankeyf (Photo by Anthony Comfort 2005)

At least now the world can have some idea of what is being lost as a result of the Ilısu dam and of what has already disappeared under the waters of the Eski Mosul dam in Iraq. But much of importance remains and needs to be studied further; The monograph provides an introduction to the region’s history and archaeology. The authors intend that it also promote further research in a notoriously difficult part of the world.

Header image: The old bridge at Hasankeyf in May 2006 (photo by Anthony Comfort)

About the Authors

Anthony Comfort is an independent scholar associated with the Centre for the Study of Greek and Roman Antiquity at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. After a career in the secretariat of the European Parliament, he completed a doctoral dissertation dealing with the roads on the frontier between Rome and Persia at Exeter University under the supervision of Stephen Mitchell. He is a specialist in the use of satellite imagery for archaeology in the Middle East but is now responsible for a project concerning the Roman roads of south-west France, where he lives.

Michał Marciak, PhD (2012), Leiden University, is an Assistant Professor at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (Poland). He has published extensively on Northern Mesopotamia, including two monographs Izates, Helena, and Monobazos of Adiabene (Harrassowitz, 2014) and Sophene, Gordyene, and Adiabene: Three Regna Minora of Northern Mesopotamia Between East and West (Brill, 2017). He is currently also the Principal Investigator of the Gaugamela Project (in cooperation with the Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project of the University of Udine, Italy) which is dedicated to the identification of the site of the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE).

9781784919566

Sincerest thanks to Anthony and Michał for preparing this post for the Archaeopress Blog. Their new book is available now in paperback and PDF eBook editions:

How Did the Persian King of Kings Get his Wine? The upper Tigris in antiquity (c.700 BCE to 636 CE) by Anthony Comfort and Michał Marciak. Archaeopress Archaeology, 2018.

Printed ISBN 9781784919566, £32.00.

Epublication ISBN 9781784919573, from £16 +VAT if applicable.

HERCULES’ SANCTUARY IN THE QUARTER OF ST THEODORE, PULA

Alka Starac describes the surprise discovery of a Roman temple in Pula, Croatia

The Roman colony of Iulia Pola Pollentia Herculanea present-day Pula-Pola Croatia
The Roman colony of Iulia Pola Pollentia Herculanea, present-day Pula-Pola, Croatia

The rescue excavations during 2005-2009 in the northern part of the ancient centre of Pula, Hrvatska, conducted over an area of 4000 square meters and at an average depth of 6 meters, revealed at first the foundations of St Theodore’s Church along with a female Benedictine monastery built in the 15th century. The church was pulled down during the construction of Austro-Hungarian barracks at the end of the 19th century. It was the only building complex which had definitely been expected to be revealed during the excavations, as it was the only one recorded in historical sources. It was considered likely that there might be Roman city ramparts as well, but it turned out that the assumed ramparts were in fact the wall of a Domus and a sewer situated inside the adjacent Public Thermae, destroyed in Late Antiquity and completely forgotten since then. In addition to the rich and well-preserved Domus and Public Thermae, the remains of an Early Christian and pre-Romanesque church were found below and inside St Theodore’s Church.

The biggest surprise, however, was the discovery of the foundations of a Roman temple surrounded by portico, containing the deposit of more than 2000 almost fully preserved amphorae of Lamboglia 2 type, placed for drainage and levelling of the temple terrace. Excavations at the end of the 19th century only just reached the rear temple foundation wall without entering the sacred enclosed area, so no one could assume the existence of a temple located within the barracks yard and hidden beneath the foundations of the monastery. Also, no one could know that the southern foundation wall of the 15th-century church, reaching five meters in depth, in its lower parts was the southern wall of the Early Christian church and the outer foundation wall of the northern portico wing surrounding the Roman temple, dividing the sacred terrace from the adjacent Thermae located at a lower level. At this point, the continuous sacred verticale measuring five metres in depth was documented, comprising the historical period of 2000 years since the Roman colony of Pola was founded.

But this exciting archaeological story did not end there. Descending into the lower stratigraphical layers in the sacred temple yard, the pre-Roman continuity of the cult place worshipped by the ancient Histri during the Hellenistic period was documented. It turned out that the Histrian cult place, active throughout three centuries until the foundation of the Roman colony, was placed next to a water spring in the karst terrain. A well, four meters deep, was built at the spring during the construction of the temple terrace, appearing above the ground beside the entrance to the temple. A limestone square building block with a club in relief is the only clear link with a certain deity found in the excavations, and this is obviously Hercules. Hercules is well known for having a strong ties with the Roman colony of Pola, honoured as a divine patron of the colony that carried his name among other titles, and a protector of the city Gate of Hercules decorated with his head and club in relief.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Location of the Hellenistic rectangular paved sanctuary inside the Roman walls of the portico of the sanctuary and a well at the spring on the left side

My new book, dedicated to the sanctuary of Hercules, deals with the urban history of the Roman temple with portico, the role of Hercules in local tradition and gives an interpretation of the archeological remains. It offers a hypothetical reconstruction of the temple and portico based on the excavated foundations, scarce fragments of architectural decoration and Vitruvian rules. The inscriptions possibly related to the sanctuary are discussed, and finally the hypothetical calculations of the building period duration and construction costs are added.

Block with a club in relief
Block with a club in relief

The discovery of a completely-unknown Roman temple with temenos and portico rarely happens. The entire structure was demolished to the ground and replaced by much more modest buildings in Late Antiquity, so the lack of historical information is unsurprising. This sequence of events resulted in the loss of elements of the architectural decoration; only a few fragments secondarily used in later buildings survived. Instead of a typical Late Republican sanctuary enclosed by a three-winged portico with open front side, Hercules’ sanctuary shows an inverse plan with a portico wing closing the front side of the temple. The foundations of two portico wings were identified, while the third wing remains an assumption. The temple was a tetrastyle prostyle, only a little smaller than the Temple of Rome and Augustus at the forum of Pola. Following the collection of data of the cult of Hercules in Pola, Hercules emerges as the central figure of the sanctuary, which is also related to the presence of a spring as well as an ancestor, hero and founder cult.

I am grateful to David Davison and Rajka Makjanić, who gave me the opportunity to publish the results of my work concerning Hercules’ sanctuary.

Alka Starac
Archaeological Museum of Istria
PhD, Senior Museum Counselor, Head of excavations
alkastarac46@gmail.com

9781784918736

Sincerest thanks to Dr Starac for providing this blog. Her book, Hercules’ Sanctuary in the Quarter of St Theodore, Pula (Archaeopress Archaeology, 2018), is available now in paperback (£32.00) or PDF eBook (from £16+VAT).

Buy print or digital book from Archaeopress direct (free eBook with print purchase)

Buy from Amazon (UK)

Buy from Book Depository (Free worldwide shipping)

Purchase from Foyles (UK)

Maryport. A Roman Fort and Its Community

David J. Breeze introduces his latest book on the Roman fort at Maryport, Cumbria, where the collection of Roman inscribed stones and sculpture, together with other Roman objects, remains the oldest archaeological collection in Britain still in private hands

On the west coast of Cumbria lies the 18th century planned town of Maryport. On its northern edge, sitting on the seaward side of a whaleback ridge rests a Roman fort, its earthworks still visible. To its north, but not visible, is an extensive extra-mural settlement, larger than the fort. Here probably lived the families of soldiers, merchants, priests, innkeepers, prostitutes and other people eager to relieve the soldiers of their pay. In the 16th century the owners of the estate, the Senhouse family, started collecting the inscriptions and sculpture found on their land. Today, their collection is on display in the Senhouse Roman Museum located just beside the fort.

 

A corner in the museum where some of the altars are displayed
Altars on display at the Senhouse Museum, Maryport

 

This altar erected by M Censorius Cornelianus records both his transfer to the Tenth Legion Fretensis based in Judaea and that his home was Nemausus, modern Nîmes
This altar erected by M. Censorius Cornelianus records both his transfer to the Tenth Legion Fretensis based in Judaea and that his home was Nemausus, modern Nîmes

It is unique in that it is the oldest archaeological collection in Britain still in private hands, though it has been placed in the care of the Senhouse Museum Trust. It is also of international importance. The museum contains many altars dedicated by the commanding officers at the fort. These were probably dedicated annually, on the day that all soldiers swore allegiance to the emperor and the Roman state, or on the birthday of the emperor. Many date to the reign of Hadrian and it would appear that we have one for each year of his reign. From this we can determine that each commander served about 3 years. The altars dedicated by the commanding officers of 3 regiments stationed at Maryport in the second century had interesting careers. Although many originally came from the western provinces of the Empire, including North Africa, their military service took them on to the Danubian provinces and to Judaea. Several rose many grades up the hierarchy, one becoming the chief financial officer of the province of Britain – and played host to the Emperor Hadrian, probably at his home in Italy.

The altars dedicated by the commanding officers and their families were to the gods of Rome, Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Mercury, Neptune and so on. Local gods are represented, including Belatucadrus, the deity of the local tribe. There are also many items of sculpture which provide insights into religious life on the northern frontier. These include depictures of the horned god found elsewhere in northern Britain as well as the unique Serpent Stone, a large phallic stone standing 1.3m high. There is also information on burial practices at the site within the 5 cemeteries which have been identified.

The cemetery north of the 1870 altar find spot excavated by Ian Haynes and Tony Wilmott
The cemetery north of the 1870 altar find spot excavated by Ian Haynes and Tony Wilmott

 

9781784918019
Maryport: A Roman Fort and Its Community by David J. Breeze (Archaeopress, Oxford 2018)

The new book brings together all the known evidence from the fort, its extra-mural settlement, older and more recent excavations and the artefacts, as well as using evidence by analogy, to provide a view of life at a fort on the very edge of the Roman Empire.

Maryport: A Roman Fort and Its Community is available now in paperback (£14.99) and PDF eBook (£10+VAT) editions.

For visitor information please see the Senhouse Museum website:
http://www.senhousemuseum.co.uk/

Sincerest thanks to David J. Breeze for taking the time to write this article about his latest publication with Archaeopress. You can read his earlier blog post, Bearsden: the rediscovery and excavation of a Roman fort.

Recent Archaeopress publications that might be of interest:

Bearsden: The Story of a Roman Fort by David J. Breeze (Paperback, £20; PDF £16+VAT)

Roman Frontier Studies 2009 Proceedings of the XXI International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies (Limes Congress) held at Newcastle upon Tyne in August 2009 edited by Nick Hodgson et al. (Hardback, £120; Paperback, £90; PDF, £16+VAT)

Latrinae: Roman Toilets in the Northwestern Provinces of the Roman Empire edited by Stefanie Hoss (Paperback, £30; PDF, £16+VAT)

Special Place, Interesting Times: The Island of Palagruža and Transitional Periods in Adriatic Prehistory

Stašo Forenbaher introduces his forthcoming Archaeopress publication, due Spring 2018

May you live in interesting times! While nobody knows the origin of this alleged old Chinese curse, its meaning is clear: in times of upheaval and radical change, most people’s lives are neither safe nor easy. Many archaeologists are drawn to such turbulent periods, marked by rupture and innovation which they can detect in the archaeological record, try to grasp their origin, and explain their consequences.

One might say that prehistory of the Adriatic was always in transition. Step-by-step changes continued in all ages, but their rhythm was not always the same. On several occasions, a series of changes over a relatively short time period resulted in dramatic transformations. Three crucial episodes of change marked the later Adriatic prehistory. The first one, which took place around year 6000 BC, was a transformation of subsistence strategy, transition from hunting and gathering to farming. The second one, which in the absence of a better term I prefer to call the raise of elites, was a social transformation that played out in the third millennium BC, when for the first time we can see the power of individuals clearly expressed by material culture. The third and the last episode, inclusion into the Mediterranean world system and the classic Mediterranean civilization, coincided with the end of prehistory in the Adriatic region.

During all of those episodes, travel and connectivity with distant lands played an exceptionally important role. Under the circumstances, some places gained particular importance due to their unique geographic location. Palagruža is among the most prominent such places, its importance being out of all proportion to its physical size. Adriatic prehistory cannot be told without mentioning Palagruža, and prehistory of Palagruža cannot be understood without knowing Adriatic prehistory. Due to its strategic position in the very center of the Adriatic Sea, due to the mystery born of distance and isolation, due to its wild and spectacular landscape, Palagruža indeed is a special place. A reflection of its specialty is an unexpected abundance of high-grade archaeological evidence, dating precisely from the three aforementioned periods marked by radical change.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Palagruža.

 

I first came to Palagruža in May 1993 as a member of an international archaeological team, led by Branko Kirigin and Timothy Kaiser, that carried out test excavations on the island. But we were not the first archaeologists on the scene: Sir Richard Burton and Carlo Marchesetti have beaten us to it by more than a century. They paid a visit to Palagruža in 1876, only a year after the great lighthouse had been built on its rocky summit. The island’s remoteness fascinated them, and they described in some detail its geology, flora and fauna, as well as the surprisingly abundant evidence of prehistoric, Greek and Roman visitors. Thanks to Burton and Marchesetti, we knew that there were ancient remains on Palagruža waiting to be discovered.

Figure 2
Impressed Ware potsherds, early sixth millennium BC.

Beginning in 1993, many excavation seasons followed over the next fifteen years, at first with multiannual breaks, later on a regular annual basis, and sometimes even twice within the same year. During four of those seasons, I was privileged to take part in those excavations and to experience the magic of Palagruža in the company of a small Robinsonian community of archaeologists. Thanks to that, Palagruža is a special place for me at a very personal level.

Many of the ideas that I elaborate in my book about prehistory of Palagruža were conceived during frequent periods spent together with Timothy Kaiser. Our friendship, which grew out of joint fieldwork at a series of Dalmatian prehistoric sites, goes back to my beginner’s days. The way I do archaeology owes very much to Tim. But my somewhat unusual orientation of an inlander who does Adriatic prehistory I owe mostly to Branko Kirigin, the main ‘culprit’ for my first fieldwork experiences in Dalmatia. When systematic excavation began on Palagruža, Branko entrusted me with the analysis of prehistoric finds. I admit that I kept him waiting for a long while: a quarter century has passed since his first, unforgettable and decisive visit to Palagruža (as he once vividly described it to me). I hope that my book justifies his expectations.

Figure 3
Incised-and-impressed Cetina style potsherds, second half of the third millennium BC.

 

The first, introductory part of the book discusses geographic location, natural environment and resources of Palagruža, offers an attempted reconstruction of its appearance during Holocene, and describes archaeological investigations that preceded our own work, including the archaeological evidence recovered by the early investigators. The second part of the book provides detailed descriptions of prehistoric sites and finds accumulated during our investigations that lasted from year 1992 until 2007. Most of it is dedicated to Salamandrija, the central and most important prehistoric site on the island, which is dominated by pottery, flaked stone, and ground stone assemblages from the third millennium BC. Among other sites that follow, Jankotova njiva stands out due to its few, but very characteristic, finds from the first half of the sixth millennium BC.

The contributions written by Zlatko Perhoč and Robert H. Tykot on sources of the raw materials for the lithic artifacts from Palagruža are crucially important for our understanding of long-distance connections. Zlatko’s petrographic analyses of chert demonstrated the existence of intensive and persistent trans-Adriatic interaction, while Rob’s analyses of obsidian confirmed occasional contacts with much more distant Mediterranean islands: Lipari in the Tyrrhenian, and Melos in the Aegean Sea.

Figure 4
Archery equipment: ground stone wristguards, arrow points, and crescent microlithic armatures, third millennium BC.

The third part of the book begins with an analysis of environmental characteristics of all small and remote Adriatic islands, and of peculiar circumstances that predetermined Palagruža’s special role. Discussions follow of its role in the crucial episodes of Adriatic prehistory, eight thousand years ago during the spread of farming into the Adriatic, and five thousand years ago during the rise of the first Adriatic elites. These are accompanied by an additional chapter on Adriatic pottery styles of the third millennium BC, without which it would not have been possible to write coherently about Palagruža, or about the Adriatic, during that period. The fourth part of the book, an appendix containing summary information about more than 150 sites that yielded characteristic finds, supplements the discussion of those styles.

Header image: The author excavating at Palagruža, September 2004.

 

Stašo Forenbaher is Senior Research Advisor at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Zagreb, Croatia. He studied archaeology at the University of Zagreb (Croatia), and received his PhD from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas (TX). His research interests cover Mediterranean Prehistory with a focus on the Adriatic, and include transition to farming, formation of early elites, archaeology of caves, and lithic analysis. He has excavated at many prehistoric stratified cave sites in the eastern Adriatic, including Pupićina Cave in Istria, Vaganačka Cave in Velebit Mountain, Grapčeva Cave on the island of Hvar, and Nakovana Cave on Pelješac Peninsula. His current fieldwork is focussed on the excavation of Vela Cave on the island of Korčula.

Forthcoming from Archaeopress, due Spring 2018:

Special Place, Interesting Times: The Island of Palagruža and Transitional Periods in Adriatic Prehistory by Stašo Forenbaher (with contributions written by Zlatko Perhoč and Robert H. Tykot). Archaeopress Archaeology, 2018. More details soon.

 

Artefacts from Malta in the British Museum

Josef Mario Briffa SJ introduces his new volume: Catalogue of Artefacts from Malta in the British Museum (Archaeopress, 2017)

Some books are born of serendipity: being at the right place at the right time, finding something you weren’t looking for. This book is one of them.

Reverend Greville John Chester Collection cat. no. 66 pg 156
Closed single-nozzled lamp. Late Roman to Early Byzantine, c. 400–500 AD (Charles Townley Collection. Drawing by C. Sagona)

It started quite simply and unexpectedly. Some ten years ago (2006/7), I was conducting research at the British Museum on letters written by Father Emmanuel Magri SJ  to Dr E.A. Wallis Budge. Chatting – as you do – with the duty curator that day (Dr St John Simpson, now Assistant Keeper in the Department of the Middle East), who was responsible for taking care of visiting researchers, and in my case bringing over the volumes of correspondence that I needed to consult, the conversation fell, naturally on Malta and Maltese archaeology. St John asked whether I knew of the British Museum artefacts database (online here), which I didn’t … so I was introduced to Merlin, as the database is called, and merely out of curiosity, we searched for “Malta”. A quick scroll through the results, and I was quite positively surprised, and felt there was potential for this project. Somewhere, I must still have the first list that St John emailed me, with an Excel extract from Merlin.

Figure 68. Reverend Greville John Chester Collection cat. nos 73, 81
Strigil in bronze, found in Mdina, Malta (Reverend Greville John Chester Collection. Photo © J. M. Briffa. Taken courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum; drawings by C. Sagona)

I realised immediately that such a project would have been impossible for me to handle alone: firstly, I felt that I lacked the experience to start with, and, secondly, I was busy with my studies to the priesthood as a Jesuit (then in theology in London), such that I would never have managed to finish it at all. Very early on, I roped in Dr Claudia Sagona, who I had known through the archaeological excavation at Tas-Silġ, and whose experience with catalogues of material I knew could bring important expertise to the project. Looking back, it was the most important decision I could take, and without Claudia’s significant contribution, the book would probably still be very much in the realm of ideas.

Figure 111. Arthur John Matthews Collection cat. no. 416
Large Maiolica storage jar. Painted decoration on front — arms of Antonio Manoel de Vilhena (1663–1736), Grand Master of the Order of Malta (Arthur John Matthews Collection. Photos © J. M. Briffa. Taken courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.

The book has been slowly cooking away on the back burner. Ten years, with many trips to the British Museum, its departments and storage facilities, by both Claudia and myself. Thousands of photos taken both in preparation for publication, as well as to help in the study of the material. Not to mention the drawings of the various items, and the detailed descriptions, and introductions to each of the collections. And many emails, phone conversations, as well as numerous drafts. I must say that after ten long years, seeing the book in print has something surreal about it.

I cannot imagine the book to become a major best seller. Catalogues of material aren’t exactly designed to be. But I hope that in its own way, this catalogue may shed some light on the history of archaeology in Malta, and make some material from historical excavations more immediately accessible to researchers in Malta and worldwide.

9781784915889The catalogue is published by Archaeopress.

viii+326 pages; illustrated throughout in colour and black & white.

Paperback | 9781784915889 | £50.00

eBook | 9781784915896 | from £16.00 (+VAT if applicable)

Further information  and purchase options available via the Archaeopress wesbite, here.

Josef Mario Briffa SJ is Lecturer at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, and a Roman Catholic priest. He has recently completed his PhD at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London on The Figural World of the Southern Levant during the Late Iron Age. He also holds a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. His research has included the history of Maltese archaeology, with a focus on the work of Fr Emmanuel Magri SJ (1851-1907), pioneer in Maltese archaeology and folklore studies. He has excavated in Malta and Israel, and is currently a staff member of The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition.

Claudia Sagona is Honorary Principal Fellow in the Centre for Classics and Archaeology at The University of Melbourne. Her research has taken her from the islands of the Maltese Archipelago, to the highlands of north-eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus. She has written a number of books concerning Malta’s ancient past, including a comprehensive volume for Cambridge University Press, The Archaeology of Malta: From the Neolithic through the Roman Period (2015), another on the Phoenician-Punic evidence, The Archaeology of Punic Malta (2002), and has delved into the Mithraic mystery cult, Looking for Mithra in Malta (2009). In 2007, she was made an honorary member of the National Order of Merit of Malta (M.O.M.).

Studying Coin Pellet Mould

A short introduction to coin pellet mould by Mark Landon

Coin pellet mould has been found across Europe north of the Roman Empire, from Štaštín near Bratislava in Slovakia to Scotch Corner in North Yorkshire, England. It can best be characterised as trays of clay in which holes have been made. The holes range in diameter from 4mm to 20mm, and a tray will carry anywhere from 25 of the larger holes to 100 of the smaller. While it is undeniable that pellet mould was used in a process involving molten metal, it has been disputed that the pellets made in it were entirely, or even primarily, destined to be made into coin. Several writers, perturbed by the many finds of CPM in contexts generally considered ‘Early Roman’, have advanced claims that the main purpose of the mould was to produce pellets of similar weight and composition for use in general metal-working. At present, however, neither the physical evidence nor the theoretical basis is sufficient to support these ideas.

The current consensus is that unmelted metal fragments were placed in the holes: pre-mixed bronze, a much smaller fraction of silver, and occasionally an even smaller proportion of gold, so that alloying took place actually ‘in the cup’. The tray was then heated to cherry-red on top of the furnace, and then, by means of a tuyère, the contents of each hole brought very swiftly to the temperature at which fusion would occur. Because the pellets are essentially base metal, and because the clay has a significantly lower melting point than the metal, and despite the fact that a steady jet of oxygen-rich air must be played directly over the hole, if reducing conditions are not rigorously maintained the oxides that form on the surface of the molten pellets fuse irretrievably with the glassy phase of the clay mould. It is a tribute to the consummate skill of the Iron Age smiths that fewer than 10 trapped pellets have ever been found, a minute fraction when compared with the hundreds of thousands of successful pellets.

Landon Fig 1
Fig. 1 – Partial apex of a Verulamium-form 50 hole tray from the Puckeridge assemblage

Making a Mint is the product of the first major comparative study of coin mould as an artefact in itself. Previous studies had relied on very small samples and did not use a consistent recording protocol, meaning that detailed comparison even within a single study was not possible. Furthermore, the primary focus had been on testing for metal residues, seeing the moulds as adjuncts rather than as artefacts in themselves. In the course of the work leading up to the book, nearly 50kg. of coin mould was examined and recorded using an exceptionally detailed protocol, thus enabling assemblages from across England to be compared very closely, and the findings then compared with the results of several series of experiments in coin mould manufacture.

Landon Fig 2
Fig. 2 – Edge fragment from Bagendon with 7mm – 8 mm base diameter holes

Although pellet mould from different sites is superficially similar, close study reveals that variability is a salient characteristic. In fact, it is perhaps wise to think of the manufacture and use of pellet-mould as a family of closely-related techniques. This variability extends from the fabrics, through the methods used to make the trays to the way in which they were used. It has been assumed that it is possible to deduce pellet module from either the diameter or the volume of mould holes on a fragment, but an examination of more than 11,000 mould holes demonstrated conclusively that this is not so. Variation in these parameters, from site to site, from assemblage to assemblage, between fragments and between the holes on single fragments, show an absence of standardisation which means that the holes could not have been used to measure the metal they contained.

Landon Fig 3
Fig. 3 – 17mm base diameter holes from Ford Bridge, Braughing

A major aim of the study has been to discover more about the social and economic context for pellet manufacture. Hints have been found in several of the assemblages studied for the season in which the coin mould was made. Chance impressions, mostly on fragment bases, of grass seed-stalks and of cultivated grains, suggest that the minting process often began in late summer or early autumn. This is exactly what one might expect from an agrarian society, because it is after harvest that there is time available for activities not directly related to farming, and it is also at this time that such a society is at its wealthiest. This is particularly important at those sites, such as the Braughing/Puckeridge settlement complex, where there is evidence for more than one episode of minting, because it locates minting in the broader cycle of  life in these places.

It has been demonstrated very well by Haselgrove and others that European Late Iron Age coin had value over and above the purely monetary, so it is perhaps no surprise that the study found clear evidence that coin pellet mould also had significance on more than one level. The majority of deposits of coin mould in England are very small, ten fragments or fewer, and they are often accompanied by fragments of expensive pottery and the remains of feasting. This is mirrored by the undeniable fact that the larger assemblages show clear signs of the preferential removal of parts of trays. Although trays were often manufactured without a great deal of care, after use it would seem that they took on some of the numen of the coin they helped to produce. There is evidence that some , at least, of the larger assemblages were exposed to the elements for some time before finally being deposited in pits or ditches, raising the possibility that they may have been displayed in the open as symbols of wealth and prestige.

This blending of the practical with the mystical is perhaps adumbrated by the three tray sizes so far attested in England: 25 holes, 50 holes and 100 holes. The capacity of the tray seems to have been dictated by the diameter of hole to be accommodated, the largest holes being found on trays with the smallest capacity. There is a good, practical reason for this: the larger the tray, the more flimsy and susceptible to breakage it becomes.

Landon Fig 4
Fig. 4 – Reconstruction of a Verulamium form tray

However, the way in which holes are laid out on the two known types of 50-hole tray, as 7 rows of 7 holes, plus a single hole above the top row to make 50, appears to show that to the makers and the users of the trays, square numbers had a significance above and beyond the purely practical. It is possible to demonstrate that the portion of the pentagonal 50-hole Verulamium form tray proportionately most likely to be selected for removal from a larger assemblage was the apex of the pediment, with its single hole.

Landon Fig 5
Fig. 5 – Verulamium-form pedimental apex from Ford Bridge, Braughing, showing incised line

That the pedimental apex hole is often separated from the body of 7 x7 holes by a line adds to the idea that it was regarded as ‘special’, although we can never know whether it was regarded as ‘lucky’, or as ‘dangerous’. The picture that emerges is of a process made deliberately complex, taking place within a society which had a very complex and multiform view of value, where an object could unite utility, kudos in display and spiritual worth.

Since Making a Mint was written, another three major assemblages have been examined – Blackfriars, Leicester; Scotch Corner, North Yorks; BRR16, from Braughing in Hertfordshire.

This last assemblage is still in the process of being examined, but it is already clear that it is of the greatest significance. The Braughing/Puckeridge settlement complex has now yielded around 70Kg. of coin pellet mould in total, and it is clear from stray surface finds that more assemblages remain to be uncovered in the vicinity. Braughing/Puckeridge is therefore one of the most significant sites of pellet-mould deposition in Europe, and in conjunction with Jake Morley-Stone of the Liverpool University Archaeomaterials Department – with funding from Historic England – this new material will be subjected to the most comprehensive programme of analysis yet undertaken.

Landon Fig 6
Fig. 6 – BRR16: Coin mould pavement

In all, 28kg of coin mould was retrieved as a single deposit, and preliminary examination has revealed new tray forms and new methods of tray manufacture. While none of the major conclusions of Making a Mint has been challenged, the BRR16 coin mould does seem to make necessary the modification of some of the positions adopted. Furthermore, given the sheer variety of types in the assemblage, the different fabrics, tray forms and techniques,  it is difficult not to consider the intriguing possibility that coin mould is being brought together at Braughing from many different places in an echo of the Folly Lane burial mound, where each turf can be shown to have come from a different location. Some of the BRR16 coin mould shows strong similarities with an assemblage found at Bavay, Département du Nord, France, and only further research will be able to demonstrate whether this resemblance is significant or merely fortuitous.

Landon Fig 7
Fig. 7 – Coin mould with square holes from the BRR16 trench, Braughing

All of these matters – and many others, including the recent discovery of a structured deposit which includes coin mould – will receive thorough treatment in the book The Mints of Braughing by Jake Morley-Stone and Mark Landon (forthcoming, Archaeopress).

9781784914080Mark Landon’s Making a Mint is available now in paperback (£34) and PDF eBook (from £16 + VAT) from Archaeopress. Order online at www.archaeopress.com at the special price of £27 (20% discount) until 31/05/2017.

Making a Mint Comparative Studies in Late Iron Age Coin Mould by Mark Landon. Printed ISBN 9781784914080. Epublication ISBN 9781784914073. Book contents page

xii+198 pages; illustrated throughout in black & white.