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Ancient Nomos Art is a museum of galleries exhibiting ancient coins and ancient mint maps. The coin gallery displays the diverse art and history of hand-crafted ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Persian and Medieval coinage. The ancient mints mapping gallery features Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Asia Minor and Medieval mint city regions and territories. Visitor's are welcome to explore, study and enjoy Ancient Nomos Art.

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Medieval, Netherlands – 720 AD

Sceatta Coins

From Ancient Galleries

Medieval, Netherlands – 720 AD

Obverse: Bust with Bristled Hair in right facing portrait; below I I I with two pellets and cross.
Reverse: Anglo-Saxon votive ‘Standard’ with TT/O/I I legend; crosses and chevrons in fields.

Obv: Bust with Bristled Hair (a.k.a.’Porcupine’ ‘Quilled Crescent1) in a right facing portrait, below III with two pellets and a cross. Rev: Beaded square Anglo-Saxon votive ‘Standard’ with TT/O/II legend in three lines; crosses in the side fields and chevrons at the corners.

The unique and creative sceatta coinage represents the earliest Anglo-Saxon coins found in both Europe and on the British Isles. This period of sceattas coinage is considered to be the most vibrant of English coinage, where coin die-cutters exhibited hundreds of different flamboyant and innovative designs in their work including: busts, drapery, human and animal figures, abstract shapes and geometrical patterns. Prior to this period and following the end of Romano-Gallic occupation in the early fifth century AD, Britain had virtually no mints or coinage issues. Coinage was only re-introduced to Britain in the mid-sixth century as trade began between the Anglo-Saxons in Britain and Merovingian’s in France. Fortunately for Britain, the Merovingian’s had retained a gold and silver monetary economy after the fall of the Roman Empire in the west. The blending of the French and British cultures resulted in a new Anglo-Saxon coin very similar to the small silver Merovingian deniers (see Merovingian denier). The silver sceatta depicted above closely parallels the medieval Merovingian coin units both in weight and size, but differs in its use of fantastical imagery and delightful design iconography. The medieval Anglo-Saxon issuers of these wonderful coins are thought to have been royal authorities, perhaps during or after King Aethiliraed. Recent scholarship has been able to carefully assign a particular region and time frame to the vast and varied sceattas coin issues. Numismatic research has attributed and categorized the sceattas coinage into three distinct phases of production. These are commonly referred today as the primary, intermediate and secondary phases. The primary phase, circa 680-710 AD, includes the earliest series of sceattas from southeast Britain and North Umbria. The above specimen is from the intermediate phase, circa 710-720 AD, and is characterized as “Continental” sceatta coinage because they were minted in Europe and often imported into Britain. The final secondary phase are the sceatta coins issued on the British mainland, precipitated by imports of Continental sceattas to Britain, and issued after the intermediate phase, circa 710-760 AD. The Continental series E sceattas, of which this type belongs, are thought to have been minted and struck in the medieval Frisian town of Domburg or Dorestad, along the Rhine delta. The sceatta obverse depicts an abstract bust featuring deep-set hair in sweeping bristled hair curves with pelleted follicles (see note below). Tony Abramson suggests the series E sceattas were “known in coastal Frisian folklore as the ‘moonstone’ because the tide exposed these minute silver coins to sparkle in the moonlight, and superstitious locals believed that they had been brought by moonbeams.” (Studies in Early Medieval Coinage, Volume 2, 2011). Abramson notes the obverse series E description as a “porcupine” was coined by Sutherland in 1942 and is today considered misguided and inappropriate. Nevertheless, these beautiful and creative little sceatta coins remained the prevalent silver unit in the British Anglo-Saxon monetary system for over two centuries, ending with Offa’s economic reforms in the late eighth century AD. Offa’s reform coinage coincided and was influenced again by France, choosing a fabric and design similar to the new denier reforms of Pépin le Bref, circa 750 AD.

Abramson refers to the sceatta bust as a ‘Quilled Crescent’ and notes that it is unfortunate the “incongruous and inappropriate ‘porcupine’ term was coined by Sutherland in 1942.” T. Abramson, Studies in Early Medieval Coinage, Volume 2, 2011. Sutherland’s 1942 observations had noted, “This type would be better termed the ‘porcupine’ type in order to avoid controversial alternatives; and such we shall henceforth call it.” CHV Sutherland, Numismatic Chronicle 1942.

NOTE: The Ancient Nomos Art Museum prefers describing the sceatta bust portrait as having ‘Bristled Hair’ in lieu of quills, since bristles refer to (coarse) hairs and quills refer to feathers from a bird.

Value: Sceatta. Metal: AR Silver. Weight: 1.28 grams. Mint: Domburg or Dorestad, Frisia (Netherlands). Date: 720-740 AD.
Attribution: D.M. Metcalf & W. Op den Velde, The Monetary Economy of the Netherlands, 1105 (this coin); Abramson 94.10; Metcalf 238; SCBI 63 (British Museum) 379; North 45; Spink, SCBC London, 790; Seaby Bulliten 671, H4391; S. Schmidt Numismatics, wc1026; CNG Triton XXI, 1329. Photo Courtesy CNG.

Legend, Documentation and Attribution