Saturday, June 21, 2014

Qua est meus aurum aureus??!

Vindolanda, a Roman auxiliary fort in Northumberland just south of Hadrian’s Wall, is a huge motherlode of archaeological discoveries, with its nine rebuilds, related civilian communities and near continuous use from 85 A.D. until the 9th century.

Vindolanda then, when it was keeping the wild Picts to the north of Hadrian's wall.

Vindolanda now, when it is keeping wild archeologists happily employed digging up cool stuff.

Volunteer Marcel Albert, from Nantes, France, who has been taking part at the Vindolanda dig since 2008, described his discovery simply as “magnifique,” and with the knowledge that although 1000’s of coins had already been discovered at Vindolanda but none of them were gold he said “I thought it can’t be true, it was just sitting there as I scrapped back the soil, shining, as if someone had just dropped it.”

Somehow, it's appropriate that a Gaul found that lost aureus.

                                                                    Viva la France! 

The well worn coin was soon confirmed by the archaeologists as an aureus (gold coin) which although found in the late 4th century level at Vindolanda bears the image of the Emperor Nero which dates the coin to AD 64-65. This precious currency, equating to over half a years’ salary for a serving soldier, had been in circulation for more than 300 years before being lost on this most northern outpost of the Roman Empire.

You can tell from its condition that the aureus went through a great many hands in its long life as legal tender. It was unearthed at the fort itself, not in the village that grew next to it. Gold coins are very rare in Roman military sites. They were just far beyond the level of currency exchanged in military outposts. Chances are, this is the only aureus that will ever be found at Vindolanda.

The Aureus as it looked fresh from Nero's mint.

The actual aureus found by M. Albert, after 300 years in circulation and centuries buried lost in northern England.

I'll bet there was a centurion that was pissed as a wet cat when he lost this in the dirt, probably after a night of drinking way too much local mead.   His loss, our gain.

Via History Blog, where there is more info on this cool find


  1. I lived in Carlisle, England for a while (US Military facility near there) in the 70's. The particular flat that I occupied was about 100m from Hadrian's Wall. On the weekends when I wasn't screwing around chasing skirt, I went out to the wall and walked it (not all that tall now because farmers took the stones to fence in their lands) and thought about what it represented.

    By the time Hadrian's wall reached Carlisle in Roman times for the most part it was a turf wall, like Antonine's Wall that ran from the Firth of Forth (Edinburgh) to the Firth of Clyde (Glasgow). As you get farther east there are the larger fortresses such as the one that you featured. They're all cool even though they are in ruins.

    I often wondered what it must have been like to man the wall. Most of the troops there were Roman Auxiliaries - not many Italians - who were paid in Roman coin.

    1. What a great experience. Did you feel the ghosts of Romans past challenging your right to walk the wall?

    2. The air is thick with history. With triumph and tragedy. It's Northern England, home of the spirits of druids, Romans, Picts, Celts, Saxons, Danes, Normans and Americans (from WW2 on, who were over paid, over sexed and over there). (a lot of girls with freckles)