Trench 3 Update

Trench 3 produces bulk finds of animal bone and pottery all through the season, and this week has been no exception. In addition to this, however, we’ve had several stycas (Anglo-Saxon copper coins) and a copper object that Finds Supervisor Kate Clarke has tentatively identified as a brooch.

There was a styca hoard uncovered from a similar area in trench three in 2009. These styca, and the ones recovered from trench three this week, all display evidence of burning to some degree, and were recovered from a context associated with burning:

Stycas, Trench 3

Stycas recovered as surface finds from Trench 3

Copper Brooch, Trench 3

Fragments of a copper brooch recovered from Trench 3.

One suggestion is that this area of the West Ward was used as a mint in the 7th century. This argument is supported by the proliferation of styca and by the burning associated with them, which could imply metal working. It has also been suggested that these coins were used as tokens in Northumberland in the post-Saxon period.

Our most probable interpretation is that copper was being collected and melted down for re-use during the medieval period. This is supported by the evidence of burning and metal working associated with the contexts in which the styca were found. The copper brooch uncovered this week would also support this theory. As we continue to work in trench three and continue to uncover finds, we’ll be re-visiting our interpretations around this.

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