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Tuesday - Saturday: 10:00 - 17:00
Sundays & Bank Holidays: 12:00 - 17:00



Archaeologists and numismatists of the Early Medieval period (AD 600-1200) are invited to attend the Third Cambridge Numismatic Symposium, 12-13 March 1999, for an investigation of coins in sacred contexts. Single coins and hoards found in graves, within churches, and in other sacred contexts (eg: wells, foundations, hearths, boundaries, etc) form the main types of evidence to be explored and evaluated at this conference.

Social messages are embedded in such depositions, and the very material which numismatists may reject for analysing economy and coin circulation, and which archaeologists may see mainly as a dating tool, actually forms a unique category of 'archaeo-numismatic' evidence.

A sacred context is here defined as a location which has been specially chosen for a symbolic or ritual reason, and a coin deposit occurs in such a context as a result of thoughtful and deliberate placement, not by chance alone. Interpreting a coin find which is essentially a gift or offering involves more than identifying coin types, dates, mints and so forth, and its economic significance is not straightforward. It may not even be relevant. Instead, this premeditated deposition conveys a meaningful social statement. The message and the action behind it are in some ways more important than the material itself, providing insight into social customs, beliefs and behaviour.

Coins in sacred contexts are thus seen to have lost one aspect of their intended economic function while taking on a new symbolic role. Alternatively, it may be said that a layer of social meaning has been added to their utilitarian function. But how do we extract this kind of meaning from small metal disks?

It is the purpose of this symposium to shed light on the social practices reflected in depositions of this kind, while also appreciating alternative (non-economic) uses of coins. Awareness will be raised of the prejudices and potential of material which has been subjected to a 'social filter', and we aim to find better ways to access and utilise this kind of information in our work.


Friday 12 March 1999
Chairman: Prof. Philip Grierson

10.00 Coffee and Registration
10.30 Welcome

10.40 Aleksander Bursche, Coins in Sacred Contexts in the Barbaricum of Later Antiquity
11.20 Arent Pol, Sacred finds in Early Medieval Germany
12.00 Mark Blackburn, Coins in Anglo-Saxon graves

12.40 Lunch

Chairman: Dr Catherine Hills

2.00 Keld Grinder-Hansen, The ritual use of coins in graves in Viking-Age and Medieval Denmark
2.40 Tuukka Talvio, Grave finds in the Eastern Baltic

3.20 Tea

3.40 Martin Biddle, Coins in Anglo-Scandinavian burials
4.20 Lucia Travaini, Saints and sinners: Coins in Italian graves
5.00 Discussion 1: To what extent are coins in graves different from other grave goods?
5.50 Break up

7.00 Dinner at Peterhouse (optional, tickets c.£20 in advance)

Saturday 13 March 1999
Chairman: Prof. James Graham-Campbell

9.30 Märit Gaimster, Coin pendants and gold bracteates: An amuletic perspective of Early Medieval coins
10.10 Torun Zachrisson, Divine gold and silver: In search of a division between hoards and sacrifices within the precious metal deposits of Eastern Middle Sweden AD 800-1200

10.50 Coffee

11.20 Kristin Bornholdt, Consecrated contexts: A new perspective on coin finds from the Isle of Man
11.50 Discussion 2: How do we recognise a sacred context?

12.40 Lunch

Chairman: Dr Peter Spufford

2.00 Hanne Wagnkilde, Coins in grave and hoard contexts in 11th-century Bornholm
2.40 Svein Gullbekk, Coin finds from churches in Early Medieval Scandinivia

3.20 Tea

3.40 Kenneth Jonsson, Late medieval cumulative finds in churches – increase or decrease?
4.20 Summing up and dispersal

Lectures will held in the Auditorium, Gonville & Caius College