I have a rather cursory knowledge of Roman matters, and of course welcome criticism of what I wrote. Rob T ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Frome Hoard (2013) Earlier I made some critical comments concerning the suggestion that the celebrated Frome hoard of later third century Roman coins, discovered in 2010, had been buried as a sacrifice to a nature god, with no intention of recovery. The press release I read at the time cited an archaeological source for the suggestion. But the suggestion has since appeared in an eponymous BM booklet, authored by BM staffers Sam Moorhead and Roger Bland, so I thought to enquire more deeply into the matter. First then, a reprise of the Moorhead ‘sacrifice to a nature god’ argument. The key suggestion seems to be that there was not a plan ever to retrieve the loot, because it would have been “awkward” to scoop the coins out of one big jar if one did. Well, yes. But what are the alternatives? It would be both awkward and risky to carry the coins to the burial site in clay jars, as they are heavy, unwieldy, and liable to smash, scattering the dosh. It would also be awkward to bury a whole bunch of small jars, since you would need to dig a much bigger hole. And you would risk not finding them all when you went back for them (as happened to Samuel Pepys with his stash). So, all in all, my conclusion is that burying one big empty jar, and then carrying the coins both to the site and later back from the site using cloth bags would be the best plan. Despite any minor awkwardness when scooping the coin back into the bags So, if we reject the ‘nature god’ theory as unsubstantiated by the facts, where does that lead us? As the authors point out, this hoard consisted almost entirely of very debased coins, of less that 5% silver. It was buried towards the end of a period when a huge number of hoards were buried in England (600+ are recorded in the literature). And it was buried around a time when perhaps near a million coins a day were being minted in the Roman empire. One idea that might spring immediately to mind is that the coins were so debased that it was just not worth the owners while to go and dig them up. So they just got forgotten about. Exactly this suggestion was put up by Anne Robertson in her “Inventory of Romano-British Coin Hoards” 2000. She wrote that they “represent savings hoards concealed by their owners over decades until they were at long last admitted to be worthless, and so were abandoned” But this suggestion too does not really work for the Frome hoard. If we figure it as 98% copper, 160KG makes the copper alone worth more than a thousand pounds at today’s scrap prices. And the silver would be worth double that. As the value of metal against labour seems to have been higher in the ancient world that it is today, it would never be accurate to call this hoard worthless. Further, most people reading the monetary edicts of Diocletian seem to have come to the conclusion that these radiate antoniniani were never demonetised, but rather were integrated into his new monetary system as fractions of his follis. And I think it is this matter that gives us a really big clue as to what is really going on at Frome, and at so many of the other burial sites. In 293 Diocletian seems to have rated his new follis or nummus at 2:5 against the old radiate antoninianus. But in 300 the old radiates were apparently devalued by a factor of two, making the follis worth 5 radiates. Any comparison between the intrinsic value of the radiates intrinsic and the value of the follis would be very difficult to make, since the make up of the radiates varied substantially, and there continues to be disagreements concerning the real rather than declared silver content of all the coins. However, the key to understanding hoarding is not the actual value of the coins in question, but rather, the imagined value of the coins, the value in the owner's head. It is my observation that owners of old coins very often imagine them to be more valuable than they are. Holders too might chose to believe self serving exaggerated claims which may have been made by government agents at the time coin had been issued. And if such a propensity existed in this case, then the halving of the value of the coin by official fiat in 300 would have reinforced such beliefs. Thus we should consider the possibility that the hoards were in fact Gresham hoards. Coin held out of circulation because they were considered undervalued, and more valuable to hold back. They may not have been originally buried with this idea in mind, but savings hoards still in the ground after 300 would perhaps become Gresham type hoards in the owner’s mind after that edict. Now consider the fact that after 300 the coinage as a whole moves towards a bimetalism in gold and copper thus the demand for silver from the mints would not be strong. What silver was issued was reasonably pure, and low grade billon would likely tariff at a discount, due to heavy refining costs. Thus it may have been that the day never came when it seemed financially a good idea to dig up the old coins and cash them in. If so, a time might come when they were forgotten altogether, not because they were valueless, but because eventually people do forget things, given long enough.