The aim of the following brief note is simply to share a recent find of a late ninth- or early tenth-century Byzantine coin that was discovered amongst the rocks at low tide on Carbis Bay beach, Cornwall. Carbis Bay is part of the wider St Ives Bay, where several sites have produced finds of Early Byzantine material and there seems to have been a significant early medieval site at Phillack on the Hayle estuary. There are only a handful of Byzantine coins of this date found in Britain when compared to both earlier and later periods, so it is an interesting find, and may offer some further context for the interesting tenth-century description of Britain as 'an emporium (bārgāh) of Rūm' in the Persian Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam.
|A copper-alloy Byzantine follis of Leo VI, dating from the late ninth or early tenth century, found at Carbis Bay, Cornwall (images: Jon Mann/PAS).|
The coin in question is a copper-alloy follis of the Byzantine emperor Leo VI, dating 886–912 and minted at the imperial capital of Constantinople, which is reported to have been recovered from amongst the rocks at low tide on Carbis Bay beach, Cornwall. Jon Mann kindly communicated this discovery to me and the find circumstances, and I have subsequently passed it on to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), where the coin is now recorded as CORN-9511B2.
- The important 'post-Roman' specialised industrial complex at Gwithian, at the eastern end of St Ives Bay. This has produced both North African and eastern Mediterranean late fifth- to sixth-century fine-wares, along with a substantial quantity of eastern Mediterranean transport amphorae.
- The churchyard of Phillack church, on the dunes to the north of the Hayle Estuary's Copperhouse Pool. This site has produced fifth- and sixth-/seventh-century stone sculpture (a Chi-Rho stone and a memorial stone) and a rim-sherd of late fifth- or early sixth-century Phocaean Red Slip-Ware from what is now western Turkey, excavated from the churchyard in 1973. Furthermore, a significant quantity of mainly Late Roman coins have been discovered from a number of sites in Phillack in recent years, with this regionally unusual concentration of Late Roman non-hoarded coinage including coins from eastern Mediterranean mints such as Alexandria and Heraclea that are rarely represented amongst site-finds in Britain, suggesting that the links to the eastern Mediterranean began in the fourth century.
- The early medieval settlement site at Hellesvean, St Ives. There are records of post-Roman Byzantine imports from this site, including 5 sherds of African Red Slip Ware from the Carthage region and a possible sherd from a Biii Mediterranean transport amphora.
|The distribution of ninth- to twelfth-century Byzantine coins and seals in Britain, based on data from the PAS, the EMC, De Jersey 1996, Biddle 2012, Kelleher 2012 and Naylor 2010; click here for a larger version of this map. Note the two major concentrations of coins and seals shown on this map are Winchester and London, and coins nowadays considered to be modern losses are not included (image: Caitlin Green).|
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