Iron Age Coin, Debenham

gold coin front and back

Late Iron Age solid gold stater struck by the tribes of East Anglia, dating to c. 50-20 BC, found in the Debenham area.

This type of coin is referred to as a ‘Norfolk Wolf’, almost exclusively distributed within East Anglia. On the obverse there is a heavily stylised wreath, with a series of uncertain motifs on one side and an irregular arrangement of crescents on the other side. The reverse depicts a wolf standing, with a flower between its legs and a bird sitting on its back, above which is a series of pellets and crescents. The meanings of these designs is unknown. A wolf is a rare animal to be depicted on coins in the Iron Age, as most feature horses, which gives this type of coin an extremely distinctive appearance.

The Late Iron Age in Britain was a time of change, development of greater overseas contacts, societal upheavals, the emergence of wheel-thrown pottery, and of course the production of the first coins. We do not know how these first coins were used – did they fulfil an economic role in trade and exchange, or were they status indicators or a symbolic extension of elite power? Maybe their function changed over time.

The earliest pieces were uninscribed (had no writing on them) and were struck primarily in gold or plated gold. In the last decades of the first century BC, coins were later struck in gold, silver and copper alloy. In the southern counties of England, coins began to adopt a more Roman style and in some cases directly copying early Roman coins that had entered Britain. The use of different metals suggests that by this stage, coins had ceased to be symbolic and were being used as currency with specifically valued denominations. Specific rulers also began to be named on coins of this period, such as Tincomarus of the southern Atrebates, Cunobelin of the eastern Trinovantes, and IIsuprasu of the north-eastern Corieltavi. However, it is important to note that many of the ‘tribal’ names now ascribed to the inhabitants of Late Iron Age Britain were first used by the Romans, rather than being what members of these individual groups would have referred to themselves as.

View the full record on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database

Thank you to the finder for allowing this object to be featured.

This find was recorded by the Suffolk Finds Recording Team, supported by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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