Review by Roger Bland.
This volume, based on a conference that was held in 2016, is the first publication to come out of the Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire project, which is creating a record of all coin hoards from across the Roman Empire and beyond, from the start of the Empire under Augustus to c.AD 400. The project, which is the vision of Chris Howgego of the Ashmolean Museum, is funded by the Augustus Foundation. An impressive number of partners from 25 countries are contributing data to it. In October 2021, the database (https://chre.ashmus.ox.ac.uk) comprised 16,374 hoards, but that is by no means a final figure, as new partners continue to add data and new hoards are found (in Britain alone, some 60 new Roman coin hoards are recorded annually).
The database will grow in usefulness as the records of individual hoards are expanded from summaries to include details of individual coins in each hoard. In an area as large as the Roman Empire and its hinterland, the completeness of the hoard record varies widely (a high proportion of hoards from north-west Europe are recorded, rather less from the Mediterranean, and very few from areas such as North Africa). That is unavoidable, and the scope and ambition of the dataset is nonetheless impressive.
The volume has two introductory papers, one from Chris Howgego and Andrew Wilson, which explains the scope and rationale of the project, and another from Kris Lockyer, which urges greater use of correspondence analysis as a tool when analysing hoards. There are then eight regional studies covering Britain, the Gallic Empire, France (the Burgundy area), Greece, Dacia, Moesia, Palestine, and Egypt. These include valuable summaries of hoards from areas that are not well known or so well published (such as Moesia, Palestine, and Egypt), while another paper discusses the British Museum/Leicester project to record Celtic and Roman hoards from Britain and Ireland, which is now complete. Hostein and Nouvel’s study of Roman hoards from the Burgundy area of France stands out as a model in its approach to analysing the hoards in their context. Finally, five thematic studies headed ‘longevity of circulation’ show some of the potential uses to which the dataset can be put.
My only criticisms are that the long gestation period of the book has meant that some more-recent published work is not referred to, while the octavo format means that some illustrations are very small: the maps in the introduction, the Gallic Empire chapter, and above all Fig. 4.4 are cases in point. But none of this detracts from the importance of this volume, which should be on the shelf of anyone interested in coin hoards and the archaeology of the Roman economy.
Coin Hoards and Hoarding in the Roman World, Jerome Mairat, Andrew Wilson, and Chris Howgego (eds) Oxford University Press, £90, ISBN 978-0198866381.