So yesterday, 1st July 2017, on the 1900th anniversary of the commencement of Hadrian's Wall I travelled to Carlisle to see a special Turma: a modern reenactment of a Roman cavalry troop practising for war and conflict.

The event was magnificently supported by the Ermine Street Guard - the UK's premier Roman reenactment society and sticklers for historical accuracy.  Anything of which Prof Simon James of Leicester University is the President, and before him the late Peter Connolly, could not be anything else: accurate and tested.


So whilst there I visited the 'military mint' and did my own piece of experimental archaeology.  Now I love ancient coins and numismatics generally - I love the notion of looking direct at the obverse face of the Emperor, wife, claimant or heir to the imperial throne and on the reverse the specially chosen propaganda of the day. So yesterday was the chance to strike my own coins.

A reverse die set upon a solid tree log, an short overlying solid metal tube and a heady obverse die as a shank into the tube. A lump hammer and with my small discs I had the tools for my own coin.  Wanting to test a series of small theories and assumptions I paid my money, let the kids go first, and then attempted my own three coins. What did I learn?

  1. That one disc placed in the tube and shank might not fill the space and could be off centre
  2. That if your discs were different weights, even marginally this would change the location of the strike on each disc
  3. That having the obverse as the 'struck' did make the impression stronger than the reverse. And thus reverse is inevitably often lighter struck.
  4. That the extent of the off centre strike would vary or be greater or lesser depending on two factors - the size of the disc or the size of the die striking area
  5. That this method of striking requires the struck disc to be removed manually.  This done in haste lays the way for not removing the coin and doing a double strike. 
  6. Equally a bad first strike might lead you to do an additional strike, also creating the double strike effect.

So I walked away with three 'coins', one centre struck, one off centre struck and one double struck.  And I was very pleased to have had all my assumptions, insights and instincts confirmed and enacted in front of me.

And yes dear reader, you will de delighted to learn that upon then going to watch the Hadrian's Cavalry Turma, I lost two of the coins on the field, thus creating my own piece of archaeology going forwards.