Archaeologists use material culture to assist in constructing interpretations for the sites that they are excavating. Some artefacts help to date contexts; such as coins and pottery. For example, finding a Roman coin in a sealed Roman context means that, that particular feature could only have existed some time after the coin was produced. Pottery and Quern Stones help us to understand what types of activities were taking place on the site, and can also indicate what types of produce were being transported and stored.
Amphorae are large pottery jars manufactured for storage and transportation of goods in bulk. Ranging in size they held between 20 and 80 litres of goods, these goods included wine, oils grains, seeds and fish sauce among other goods, the were also used for secondary storage purposes. The contents of Amphorae rarely survive into the archaeological record. The fragment discovered here was used as packing material in one of the post holes that formed the pit it was uncovered in.
Quern stones are used for the grinding of grain into flour and it is suggested that they were used on a personal level to grind the grain ration of a working roman soldier, this would support the number of stones being found scattered throughout the site. The issue of grain as rations from the granaries is presumable because grain stores longer than ground flour or meal. Quern stones are identifiable by their dress faces and angular construction, these are made so that the stones are better able to grind the grain.
Coinage, is an important archaeological artefact, especially as it can help date areas and layers of a site. This is true for all sites on which they are found, but is particularly very true of roman coins due to the size of the empire and its many eras.
One of the more obvious reasons for the usefulness of roman coins is the obverse (head) side of the coin, which depicted the emperor of the time and their titles. This can be valuable for the dating of sites, as the names and reigns of these emperors are recorded within the historical record. They can also help to show change within the imperial household, such as change in imperial dress and hair, which can provide a useful insight into the possible outside influences on major Roman society.
Furthermore, on the reverse side of coins, it is quite common to find a form of propaganda. These can include: a depiction of the benefits of roman rule, the virtues of the emperor and their links to the gods (ie. deified roman emperors, and other roman gods) and loyalty of the armies to the emperor. Some coins commemorate major events or achievements of the empire, one such example being the depiction of Princeps (emperor) Claudius’ conquest of Britain in 43AD. Such a coin would be a major propaganda boost.
Interestingly, sometimes after a coin had been made it would be dipped into precious metals to increase its value during times of economic hardships. Metal analyses of these coins could be invaluable to understanding Roman economy .
At Ribchester we have currently found 79 coins, unfortunately many of them are too corroded for us to be able to identify fully. However, we have discovered one very well preserved silver denarii which bears both the face and name of emperor Vespasian who ruled from 69-79 AD and started the Flavian dynasty. Finding a coin that can be identified in such detail is really helpful in being able to find the earliest possible date of the context that it was excavated from. Finding coins in archaeological excavations also helps us to identify the types of economic system people were using, in this case a coin-based economy