Numismatic data reconsidered

Coin distributions
and interpretation in studies of late Iron
Age Britain

Project leader

Department of Coins and Medals 


Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • An Arts and Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Award
  • The British Museum

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Using the extraordinarily rich database of Iron Age coin finds from Britain, this project aims to reassess some of the most cherished assumptions about late pre-Roman Iron Age society.

As a result of the long-term recording work of the Celtic Coin Index (CCI) established in 1960, and subsequently of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), established in 1997, Iron Age coins are one of the best attested and most systematically recorded forms of evidence for the period. By combining data from the CCI and PAS, the project will examine patterns within coinage distribution.

Provisional analysis suggests the assumed significance of tribal or regional level organisation and traditional notions of power and kingship should be challenged. These ideas have changed remarkably little in the 150 years since iron age coins began to be systematically catalogued. The majority of numismatic studies still therefore assume that the circulation areas of the several stylistically distinct coin series, identified in the last century are indicative of the key social and political divisions of lowland Britain. Alternative interpretations of the patterns observed within Iron Age coinage drawing on alternative social dynamics will be examined by this project.

The results of this project will be published after the submission of a PhD thesis in 2011. Additionally, it is intended that all data will be available and fully searchable online. PAS data is currently publicly accessible online, and it is intended that data from the CCI will be integrated and made available through the same website.

Further information

Portable Antiquities Scheme database 

Celtic Coin Index 

An Iron Age coin hoard being excavated

An Iron Age coin hoard. © 2003 University of Leicester Archaeological Services.