Feature Spotlight: Currency Bars

A second Feature Spotlight Article this week :).

Currency bars such as these might have been used as a form of trade iron in the middle to late Iron Age in southern Britain.

Following his raids on south-east Britain in 55 and 54 BC, Caesar commented: “They use either gold or bronze coinage or, instead of coinage, iron bars weighed out precisely.” (Caesar’s Gallic War, 5.12). Many of the Iron bars are of a standard weight, and have been found at many southern British sites. The rolled and pinched ends, which occur in a variety of different types, may signify different types of iron (e.g. high vs. low phosphorus).

This may have also served as an indication that the iron was high quality and could be smithed into complex forms. Some researchers have suggested that currency bars may have been intentionally deposited in liminal contexts such as enclosure ditches.

Around 500 are known, including several large hoards and many individual finds. Currency bars of this type are known from a variety of sites in south-central Britain. They are made from a high phosphorus, low carbon iron. Typical measurements: 780-850 x 35-45 x 4-5mm; 450-700g.

All currency bars from the display at the Museum of the Iron Age, Hampshire, England.

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