Locating a National Collection - Early Egyptian coins in Northern Europe

This map presents the locations of archaeological findspots in Europe of ancient base-metal and billon (silver-alloy) coins minted in Egypt, from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine periods.

The cause of their distribution has been debated in Britain since the early 19th century when several large deposits were reported in Exeter. While the coins themselves are unquestionably ancient, the time of their deposition has long troubled archaeologists as it does not fit the overall pattern of other coin finds from antiquity. Some saw them as evidence of ancient trade, while others suspected a modern explanation: returning soldiers and tourists, or even fraudsters. As a consequence of this notoriety, new discoveries have often been consigned to a footnote in archaeological publications, and there has been little systematic attempt to consider them collectively. Attempts to do so have also generally focused on the coins of particular periods (Ptolemaic, Roman or Byzantine) even though they are sometimes found together. This map is an attempt to draw as much of the available evidence together as possible - along with some other Egyptian finds - to determine whether any pattern can be detected that might shed light on the question.

Early Western Coins.

Using the Map

The map opens with a view of the south-west of England, where rivers and some postulated early transport routes are also highlighted. Although there is a major cluster of findspots at Exeter, it is clear that the the phenomenon is much wider and there is no obvious correlation with the more intensively-populated Roman areas to the east. There is also an apparent trend of association with rivers and coastlines. Zooming out to the whole of the UK, we can see a surprisingly large number of finds, stretching all the way to the Moray Firth. As many of these coins postdate the Antonine period, the Scottish finds also suggest a post-Roman explanation. Particular clusters can be identified in the Isle of Wight, parts of the north west, and the regions around London, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Zooming out still further, we can see that they also extend far beyond the border of the Roman Empire into northern-central Europe. Using the filters you can compare known coin from different periods and mint locations (Byzantine coins also include coins from non-Egyptian mints). Is there a pattern to this distribution or is it just random noise?

Making the Map

The data for the map have been drawn together from a very wide array of print and digital resources. Selecting a point on the map and accessing its attribute data will provide further information and a hyperlink to the original source where available. Navigable river data is from Eljas Oksanen (2019), Inland Navigation in England and Wales before 1348. Roman road data is from Johan Ă…hlfeldt, Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire.

Although primarily concerned with the representation of point data, we need Peripleo also to display other types of digitised geometries such as lines and polygons. This map includes such data as underlays. It also demonstrates some considerations that may arise when presenting different types of data, and features that may have multiple types.