The Durobrivae of Antoninus - Plate 38
Artis never completed the words to accompany his drawings. The notes below seek to explain the items featured on this page.
Counterfeit Roman Coins
Official Roman coins were struck – using metal dies to impress the design on to blank metal discs. However, it is not uncommon to find evidence of coins being cast using the type of technique illustrated on Plate 38. Artis had a particular interest in Roman coins and in the moulds used to manufacture them in multiple locations - probably by counterfeiters.
In 1822 a number of newspapers reported that Artis visited Lingwell Gate, Wakefield and took a number of Roman coin moulds:
"ROMAN ANTIQUITIES.— A quantity of coins and moulds, supposed to have been secretly employed by the Romans in imitating the silver currency of their time, was discovered at Lingwell(-)gate, near Wakefield, by Mr. Artis, who was recently engaged in the development of the great Roman station at Castor (near Peterborough), and whose discoveries at that place have of late excited so much interest in the antiquarian world."
Artis was in fact a "Johnny-come-lately" to the site. It had already been identified as early as the seventeenth century, and is recorded in Gough's edition of Camden (Vol. 3 p. 279), where it is stated 'that between Wakefield Outwood, and Thorp on the Hill, at Lingwell Gate were found in 1697 certain clay moulds for Roman coins, all of such Emperors in whose reigns the money is known to have been counterfeited. This place may take its name from the Langones quartered at Ollcana, Ilkley and Wall, a corruption of Vallura, and they may have encamped on Thorp the Hill.’
On the 13th March 1821, 'a wheelbarrow -full of these moulds was found in the same field, together with four crucibles all perfect'. Three of them had lids or covers. In the same year one crucible with some moulds was sent to the Antiquarian Society, Somerset House (now the Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House), and another to the British Museum. These are recorded as having been found by a Mr. Pitts, and he appears to have also distributed some to the Yorkshire and Carlisle Museums.
In 1840, Charles Roach Smith recorded that, 'Mr Artis of Caistor took coffee and spent the evening with me. I was much gratified at having the opportunity of a long chat with him on the subject of Roman antiquities at Caistor. He shewed me some hundreds of coins found there and clay moulds also, among which was one for the large brass of Aurelius….'
Roach Smith was a noted collector of Roman Antiquities and eventually these formed the basis of the collections in the British Museum. He was a great friend of Artis and in the same year he noted that, 'Mr Artis took breakfast with me and afterwards we took casts in sulphur from the clay moulds found by him at Castor. They commence with Hadrian and end with Maximinus. One is of Marcus Aurelius for large brass which is extremely curious and I believe not known before. Mr Artis did not leave till 2 in the morning.'
in 1845 the records of the meeting of the British Archaeological Association indicate that Artis sent some examples: 'he also exhibited the clay moulds used by the fabricators of the Roman debased silver coins, some of which still adhered to the matrices.'
Intriguingly Artis shows two moulds on Plate 38 of the Durobrivae, but without details of their provenance, together with a suggested reconstruction of the way in which the coins were produced. Richard Reece FSA, has recently identified the portraits as those of Clodius Albinus (AD 193-197) and Severus Alexander (AD222-235). Neither of these appear in the Lingwell Gate hoards.
None of Artis's moulds has certainly been found although Peterborough Museum does have one mould of a barbarous radiate of the third-century, which is attributed to Artis, but its provenance is unclear.
The moulds shown in 'the Durobrivae', as coloured by his daughter, do appear to show traces of the casting metal, and therefore it is likely that these are in fact local finds and not from Wakefield.
An interesting paper on the subject of counterfeit coinage has been published by London Archaeologist Association, "Faking it - the evidence for counterfeiting coins in Roman London". The reconstruction of the casting crucible from remains found at Cologne, and illustrated there, were well anticipated by Artis on his Plate 38.
There is also further information available about the moulds from Lingwell Gate referred to above. They were investigated in the 1930s by Arthur E. Robinson who went on to publish a survey of all the known Roman coin moulds in Britain entitled ‘False and Imitation Roman Coins’ in three issues of The Journal of Antiquarian Association of the British Isles, Vol. II, no. 3, Dec. 1931, pp.97-112; Vol II, no. 4, March 1932, pp.171-184; and Vol. III, no. 1, June 1932, pp.3-28.