Highlights of the British Collection:

Henley Hoard of Iron Age Coins

The stunning hoard of 32 Celtic gold coins was found by a metal detectorist in 2003 and 2004 in a field near Henley, Oxfordshire. The coins date from roughly the time of Julius Caesar’s two short-lived invasions in the 50's BC. They were minted by the Atrebates, probably at Silchester.

The image of the horse is likely to have had a special significance for the inhabitants of Oxfordshire in the Iron Age. It is highly reminiscent of the White Horse on the Ridgeway. This landmark had a much earlier origin in the Bronze Age, but it must have remained a prominent part of the ritual landscape in the Iron Age.

The hoard is the most northerly example of the Iron Age practice of concealing coins in containers made from the hollow flint nodules which are found in layers in the Upper Chalk of the Downs.

The coins are made of gold, alloyed with silver and copper. They are all of the same type, distinguished by the lack of a design on one side and a horse with a triple tail over a wheel on the other.

The Celts began producing coins in imitation of the coinages they received from the Macedonians as mercenary pay. Celtic coinage spread from the Danube to Britain. This history explains why the image of a horse and wheel on the coins in the hoard is derived ultimately from Macedonian gold coinages which depicted the two horse chariot with which Philip II of Macedon, Alexander’s father, was victorious in the Olympic Games.

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Gold Coin from Henley Hoard (Click to enlarge)

Gold Coin from Henley Hoard with the image of a horse

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Coins and container from Henley Hoard

Coins and container of hoard found at Henley, Oxfordshire

Phillip II Coin

Macedonian gold coin depicting the two horse chariot with which Philip II of Macedon, Alexander's father, was victorious in the Olympic Games

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22 May 2012