History of the Northumbrian Styca

Monne

A Monne styca, struck by the most prolific of the Anglo-Saxon moniers.

 

In the 8th through the later 9th century AD, beginning with King Æthelred I circa 774 and likely ending with King Osberht circa 865, the styca replaced the sceatta as the most common form of currency in Northumbria. While both the styca and the sceatta depict the name of the monarch on the obverse, the sceatta was a base silver currency portraying a quadruped on the reverse whereas the styca was a base copper currency which denoted the name of the moneyer on the reverse. Incidentally, this also meant that the styca was one of the first minted coinage that held a higher face value than its material worth. Much of the information known and presented here is based on the writings of Symeon of Durham, Roger of Wendover, and modern author, Sir Frank Stenton.

 

BlogStyca

A styca from the BRP excavation finds.

 

As the currency was re-struck for each ensuing monarch, there is a noticeable difference in silver content, indicating that each subsequent iteration or design of styca was debased, or melted down in order to remove the precious silver, then replaced with less expensive raw materials, such as tin. This is evident when comparing late 8th Stycas to mid-9th Stycas, the quality of the material is varying centred on the level of corrosion present. There have been several discoveries in recent years of styca hoards containing hundreds, sometimes thousands, of stycas (see: Hexham hoard, Bolton Percy hoard, Bamburgh hoard, etc.).

 

Bolton Percy Hoard

The Bolton Percy Hoard (Image courtesy of York Museums Trust :: http://yorkmuseumstrust.org.uk/ :: CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

At the Bamburgh Research Project, the ability to date these Stycas is tremendously significant as it can tell us the earliest possible date of an archaeological context. Our ability to determine dates based on the artistry alone is also most cost effective when compared to carbon dating and more accurate than dating based on biostratigraphy. Given a proper identification schema, we hope to give more clarity to our sites and greater insight into the lives of those who came before us.

 

Citations

Frank, S. (1970). Preparatory to Anglo-Saxon England Being the Collected Papers of Frank Merry Stenton. Doris Mary Stenton.

Lyon, C. (1957). A reappraisal of the sceatta and styca coinage of Northumbria. BNJ 28, 227-232.

Roger of Wendover. (c. 13th century). Flores Historiarum.

Symeon of Durham. (c. 13th century). Historia Regum.

 

 

 

 

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