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Roman coin uncovered in Orkney

Published: Tue 18 July 2017
Roman coin uncovered in Orkney

University of Bradford archaeologists have been thrilled by the discovery of a Roman coin during the excavation of an archaeological site in Orkney.

The copper alloy coin was found at the Knowe of Swandro on Rousay, the location of a Neolithic chambered tomb, Iron Age roundhouses and Pictish buildings. The coin was found at the site of a small roundhouse.

The archaeological site is at risk from coastal erosion. The Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust, which is leading the dig, describes itself as being in a "race against time and tide" to excavate and record the site. Every winter fierce Atlantic gales erode more of the coastline.

The University of the Highlands and Islands and University of Bradford are among universities assisting with the archaeological work.

The coin is believed to date from the mid-4th Century AD. Other finds from that site have been dated to about the second and fourth centuries AD.

Dr Steve Dockrill of the University of Bradford, co-director of the project with Dr Julie Bond, said: "The bust on the coin is clearly visible although much of the lettering isn't at present clear.The reverse contains a standing figure, possibly representing the emperor with what might be an image of Victory at the side. This type of coin is similar to issues dating to the mid-4th Century AD."

Roman finds have been made before in Orkney and other Scottish islands, including the Western Isles. Just seven other Roman coins had previously been found on the isles. A Roman brooch and pieces of pottery have also been uncovered in the past. Roman coins have been found in other parts of Scotland which the Romans did not occupy.

The works of classical writers suggested the Romans were aware of Orkney, with the writers even making claims of an invasion, although archaeologists and historians believe this to have been unlikely.

Picture credit: Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust

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