Friday 8 February 2013

York Minster finds shed light on post-Roman period

The rare Anglo-Saxon coin found at the minster shows that the city had its own mint [Credit: Maev Kennedy/Guardian]

The recent excavation of a pair of Viking feet and a tiny silver Anglo-Saxon coin may lack the glamour of the discovery of the last Plantagenet, but it has shone a light on one of the least known periods in the long history of York Minister: the centuries between the fall of Roman empire and the coming of the Vikings, in AD866.

The coin, no bigger than a 5p piece, is a sceat, minted in York. It is in such good condition that experts at the British Museum first thought it was a Victorian fake. So good is its state of repair that marks are legible identifying the maker as Eadwine, who also minted coins for the Northumbrian court. It proves that York had enough status and wealth in the early 9th century to support its own mint.

The coin is so pristine it was probably never circulated, so the archaeologists surmise that it was dropped accidentally almost as soon as it was struck, and that the mint must therefore have been very close to the site of the present enormous medieval church, which was built over layers of earlier foundations, some of them Roman.

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