A NEW CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM FOR R8 AND R8R SCEATTAS

by

Chris Timms © 2017

 

 

Identifying Terminology

R8 & R8R

Metcalf[1] uses the designation R8 and R8R for the coins. The designation R8 and R8R is used by most coin dealers at present.

 

S/1/11/120 & S/1/11/130

Abramson[2] lists the R8 Sceatta as Phase S (secondary), Theme 1 (Radiate Bust/Votive Standard), Group 11 (Series R), Variety 120 (Series R8). Therefore the R8 is referred to as S/1/11/120 and the R8R is referred to as the S/1/11/130.

 

813a

Spink[3] lists the R8 as ‘Sceatta Coinage Secondary Phase c. 710 - c. 760 813a’ although does not show a picture of the R8 in the book and groups the R7-12 under the designation 813a.

 

Type

Type 60

I have used the term Type instead of Die as used by Abramson[4] in his Linnaean order. I have based the types on differing runes shown on the Obverse of the specimens. Alternative designs on the Reverse could also generate further types. New types will of course continue to be found.

 

Establishment of R8 and R8R Design  

All coin images and supporting information I have sent to the Early Medieval Corpus at the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge to be registered as R8 and R8R coins have been accepted and registered as such. I have also received help from Dr Tony Abramson who has identified coins as the 11/120-R8 and 11/130 R8R. Metcalf[5] shows similar styles of head. As a result of these communications and acceptance by the Early Medieval Corpus (EMC) I am confident that these coins are indeed from the R8 and R8R series. The style of artwork used in the abovementioned specimens is what I consider to be characteristic of the R8 and R8R varieties. Gannon[6] briefly discusses the Crosses and Standards on the reverse of Sceattas but does not give detail of the R8.

 

[1] Metcalf 1994, 502-523  [2] Abramson 2012, 63  [3] Spink 2015, 96  [4] Abramson 2012, 5

[5] Metcalf 1994, 516  [6] Gannon 2010, 171

 

 

EMC 2016.0239

Use of Style / Art 

The artwork used on the obverse of the R8 usually consists of a naively constructed stylised head (see image above) that unlike the lower numbered series R coins does not have a neck. It does however, have a characteristic cheek bulge. The head faces to the right in the R8 variety. The shape of the forehead/nose, as in example shown above is an important criterion in identifying the variety. Abramson[7] calls this a Runic Bust. Metcalf[8] comments ‘The profile is rectangular, and the lips are heavy and elongated, sometimes ending in pellets.’ See below in image.

 

[7] Abramson 2012, 255  [8] Metcalf 1994, 515

 

EMC 2015.0398 Obv

The head appears to be supported by a ‘shoulder’ made up of exergual lines, these are frequently three in number when the design is fully contained within the flan or offset to the top. The exergual lines under the head could be interpreted as a crude representation of shoulders in very crudely fashioned artwork. The central exergual line is usually beaded, there is some beading visible in the image above. 

 

The pellet shaped eye is mostly placed in the middle of the nose/forehead. The eye pellet is mostly circular but occasionally ovoid. The forehead line of the face is often but not always longer than the line at the bottom of the nose, see above image of whole flan of 2015.0398.

 

If the complete design is featured within the confines of the flan, three annulets can be seen. There are usually two behind the head, one approximately level with the forehead line and one just below the ear. The one to the front of the head is often level with the forehead line. The ear is crescent shaped usually with a pellet at each end. A cheek bulge extends from the eye to below the lips. The lips consist of two parallel lines usually of equal length each often ending in a pellet. Sometimes a top line is visible that is perhaps the lower line of a crown, this is more prominent when the flan has been struck offset to the bottom. Few R8s have a Radiate Crown showing.

 

Blackburn and others date the R series minting chronology approximately in the first half of the eighth century. This is when regional runic alphabets or the English FUTHORC was evolving. The R series were probably minted in the Kingdom of East Anglia. However, it is important to note that the runes depicted on the coins are heavily stylised.

 

On my coins the Reverse side is fairly uniform, if this is the case with many R8s this could be a criterion to consider using in identifying the R8 series. The L’s on the reverse often occur in four different positions, both on the top, bottom, left and righthand side. Coins with identical Reverse ‘LOLII Standards’, to mine are the R8 S/1/11/120 (bust right) as shown by Abramson[9], Gannon[10] and Metcalf[11].

 

[9] Abramson 2012, 67  [10] Gannon 2013, Plate 29-9, 661-83 

[11] Metcalf 1994, Plate 24-5, 410-20

 

EMC 2015.0398 Rev

A variation on this style is the reverse of coin 2016.0169, this is in my opinion an R8 despite the differences of the symbols within the Standard. It has two T’s pommée, an L pommée and a 45° angle line pommée pointing towards the centre annulet. The obverse of the coin is of a characteristic R8 style but with the addition of a cross pommée behind the head instead of a horizontal chevron “>”. This coin also has two pellets below the head. It also features the combination of the stylised runes “E” and “R” written anti-clockwise.

EMC 2016.0169

 

I have made visits to the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge and the British Museum London to look at their R8 and R8R coins. On-line images on the EMC website, the British Museum website and the Ashmolean website have also been studied. Dr Michael Metcalf and Dr Tony Abramson have also sent additional images. I have also studied one hundred and two images of different R8 and R8R coins. Not all details of every image are suitable for inclusion in the study, some coins are too worn or damaged others have incomplete information supplied or it is not known. Seventy-one have been included in the study.

 

The R8 specimens have been allocated Type numbers under 200 and the R8R specimens number from 200 upwards.

 

Coins have been classified using the Runes on the obverse of the coin as a lead feature. This is assisted by the style of the runic head, in particular the nose shape and then dividing those classifications into sub categories. The symbols on both the inside and outside of the Standard on the reverse of the coins allow further sub-division of categories.

 

The most common type of bust or head depicted on the R8 features a naively fashioned rectilinear forehead/nose with no neck connecting it to the exergual lines and the rest of the artwork, this has been referred to as a head. Occasionally the nose is more pointed than square, this alternative is given another Type number. There is a crescent shaped ear, usually with a pellet at each end that is situated behind the eye. The eye is often centrally placed within the forehead, it consists of just a pellet which is stylistically in keeping with the simplistic artwork. There are often three annulets present, one above and to the front of the head and one above behind, a further one is behind and below the head. There is a horizontal chevron “>” between the two annulets behind the head, some have referred to this as an unbarred horizontal A. Occasionally a crown or crown line can be seen placed centrally above the head. At the bottom of the obverse are three exergual lines, the central one being beaded. The peripheral elements of the artwork often extend over the flan edge in the R8 and R8R. Gannon[12] comments that “Series R moves towards abstraction and pattern making”, she also mentions "...the geometric designs of Series R, obstinately non-classical and runic..." when comparing the R Series with other series of the mid 8th century.

 

The runes, to the front of the head, are usually written in a clock-wise direction with the top of the runes facing outwards. There are exceptions to both, some having runes reading anti-clockwise and a small number have inward facing runes. I consider the runes to be stylised with many coins having blundered or corrupt runes. Runes appear in a variety of combinations. The “E” rune e features in most of the combinations. “P” and “A” are used in the R8 artwork. Some R8 coins have a runic inscription that looks like “HHL” in bind format. The epigraphic element is much less important than the iconography in identifying the types. Page[13] discusses the use of runes on coins.

 

Grouping coins with a similar runic format does not identify the mint location but probably indicates a common production site if die link research supports this. Research into loss and find spots can also help in locating a general area of production. Maps showing this are to be found on the EMC website (see links page).

 

The most common style of the reverse is a beaded Standard with a cross pommée protruding at mid-point 90 degrees from each of the four sides of the standard. Each corner has a short line protruding at a forty-five-degree angle, this often ends in a pellet. Inside the Standard is a centrally placed plain annulet most often surrounded by two L’s and two /’s. This is referred to as a LOLII standard. Variations from this are given other Type numbers. Metcalf[14] comments that “The pattern in the standard varies and will eventually merit a stylistic analysis.” he includes the weight of the coin in the suggestion. The inclusion of find spot or provenance could also be useful. 

 

[12] Gannon 2010, 44  [13] Page 1999, 122  [14] Metcalf 1994, 515

 

Identifying Features of R8 Design 

Comparing the similarities of the coins I have decided to examine what I believes to be their main features. The Obverse has been divided into ten features and the Reverse into a further nine. The relationship of the axis - obverse to reverse has been considered, horizontal rotation right has been used.

 

The Obverse elements are:-

  1. Forehead/nose, 2. Eye, 3. Cheek, 4. Lips, 5. Ear, 6. Top Line/Crown, 7. Bottom lines,
  2. Annulet, 9. Symbols/Pellets 10. Stylised Runes

 

The Reverse elements are:-

  1. Standard, 12. Beading, 13. Central Annulet, 14. LOLII orientation, 15. L’s,16. 45° Lines within Standard, 17. Crosses, 18. Outside diagonals, 19. Pellets within Standard.

 

The axis on some coins differs so this is another element. The weight and diameter of the coins comprise the two final elements, although these last two won’t aid type identification. Ongoing observation of coin images is continuing as new information may necessitate the need to update or expand the number and title of the elements.

Study Focus 

There are many differing features of the coins, some appear to me to be of major significance, others of less significance. The major features will be used to determine the variety and minor features to assist in identifying varying types within the variety.

 

As far as the obverse of the coin is concerned, the criteria of the presence of characteristic head, annulets and crown line as the primary method of identifying the variety will be used. The combination of runes will be paramount. The Standard, its central annulet, external lines and crosses will be used as variety criteria for the reverse.

 

Minor features on the obverse such as the artwork before the head and the presence of pellets & annulets in varying places will help to identify the types. The alternative combination of stylised runes appearing will also allow classification of types. This may also identify other moneyers/mints. The conclusive establishment of the use of different runes may indicate a completely different type. The occurrence of alternative symbols within the standard on the reverse may also assist in determining types. The placement of the strike on the flan may mean some of the elements extend over the edge of the flan or in cases of extreme offsetting, disappearing from view.

 

Metcalf[15] comments that “The pattern in the standard varies and will eventually merit a stylistic analysis.” he continues including the weight of the coin in the suggestion. The inclusion of find spot or provenance could also be useful.  Although Metcalf[16] includes a variant of R8 (what he calls Q/R coins) in Q series these coins with stylised runes ER retrograde have been included in the survey. Metcalf shows these on plate 23 nos. 389 & 390, outside the R8 plate 24 numerical range of nos. 410-419. Abramson[17] does not list the ER rune coins in the Q series in but does pass comment upon their relationship.

 

Sixty-five images of coins catalogued as R8 and R8R on the Fitzwilliam EMC website have been studied, this includes my collection of R8 and R8R specimens. Dr Tony Abramson’s collection of five coins, twenty-two coins from the British Museum and eleven from the Ashmolean have been reviewed. One coin belonging to me not having a find spot but having clear obverse and reverse has also been included in the survey. Some coins are too worn or damaged to allow clear identification of the runes on them. Only images considered to be clear enough to determine with reasonable surety the combination of stylised runes used on the obverse have been included. Combinations of EPA, EP, EA and ER seem most common. What I have interpreted as possibly stylised HHL number very few. R8R coins have also been included in the study.

 

A Typical R8 Obverse is shown below. The head faces right in the R8 and left in the R8R with a rectilinear forehead/nose and cheek bulge. This is referred to as a diagrammatic profile head. The two lines of the lips ending in pellets are often level with the bottom line of the nose. The ear is crescent shaped with a pellet at both ends. There are three exergual lines with the mid line being beaded. The runes, nearly always facing outwards i.e. top of “M” facing away from the centre of the coin, are read sometimes clockwise and sometimes anti-clockwise. There are three annulets, two behind the head and one in front above the runes, and often a horizontal chevron behind the ear.

 

[15] Metcalf 1994, 515  [16] Metcalf 1994, 518  [17] Abramson 2012, 154

 

TMS 16/57 Obv

Pictured below is a typical R8 Reverse. The standard sides are usually made up of between 17 to 29 pellets, this can vary. Inside the standard is a central annulet, this is usually surrounded by two L’s placed adjacent to each other and two 45° lines pointing inwards towards the central annulet. The two 45° are also adjacent to each other. Outside the standard are four 45° angled lines protruding from the standard corners, these often end in a pellet. Mid-point along each side is a cross pommée. If the specimen has a large sized standard struck on the flan the artwork often extends over the flan edge. Die axis varies between 0, 90, 180 and 270 degrees. This format is what is referred to as a ‘Typical’ LOLII standard or reverse. It is unusual but not unknown to find pellets and other symbols within the standard or the central annulet.

 

TMS 16/57 Rev

Runes

Runes, albeit in a stylised form, constitute a vitally important element of identification in the classification, the most common on the R8’s are the combination of E, P  and A with the E above the P and the A below the P. The e or ehwaz character represents the sound value E, the p or perÞ character represents the sound value P. The a or ansuz rune represents the sound value A. Page[18] comments “The die design may be reversed, producing retrograde letter forms, or the legend may be only partly copied, giving ‘ep’ or ‘pa’.”  Whether the legend of the R8 has been only partly copied by mistake or intentionally shortened from the EPA, used in earlier varieties in the group, will probably never be known. However, the group of runes EPA in various combinations appears on the majority of coins identified as R8’s found so far. Runes on R8 coins nearly always have the top of the character facing outwards, below is an example of the position of the runes on the obverse of a sceat.

 

[18] Page 1999, 122

 

EMC 2015.0164

 

Interestingly if the obverse of coins 1997.8169 and 2015.0164 are observed, the runes seem to be a combination of HH in bind rune format and an L, could this be from another moneyer or mint. Pollington[19] describes bind runes, “Bind runes are groups of characters written in such a way that they form a single sign” When writing two Hs one after the other the central upright would function as both the right-hand element of the left side character and the left hand element of the right sided character. The term ligate is often used instead of bind. The hagalaz character that represents the sound value H is sometimes written with either one or two lines between the vertical outside uprights. The laguz character represents the sound value L. It would be normal to find runes written in text with a double line between the uprights of the H at this time from 700 to 750AD.

 

It is important to remember that the runes appearing on the obverse of the coins are heavily stylised, Page[20] discusses this in relationship to coins. Runes of a similar style EPA etc. appear on both primary and secondary coins of other series and in the R series over a long period of time.  It is possible that the R3 to R11 groups of coins were minted in the reign of Ælfwald 713AD to 749AD and that the runes EPA (and other combinations) initially identified moneyers/mints during this period but then became subsumed into the artwork of the design and continued to be used during the 36 years of his reign. Coincidently Ælfwald’s reign appears to mirror the dates of the span of the secondary phase of sceattas if R3 to R11 come within that phase.

 

Different stylised runes may indicate mint locations or different batches made at the same mint. After discussions with Runologists, it would appear that the epigraphic element is less important than the iconography in identifying the types.

 

Only brief references relating to the iconography of the reverse of coins appear to have been written in research looked at so far. Gannon[21] mentions this fleetingly. As mentioned above with the Obverse, the epigraphic element appears less important than the iconography in determining the possible mint/moneyer until further contemporary written information becomes available.

 

[19] Pollington 2008, 43  [20] Page 1999, 90  [21] Gannon 2010, 172

 

Types

R8

The main artwork feature used to classify the R8 series is the different combinations of stylised runes appearing on the obverse of the coins. Variations of the runes EPA constitute by far the largest group of runes used, they appear as EPA, EP and EA with occasionally EA in bind or ligate form. EA preceded by an unidentified rune also appears. What could be HHL has been found on only two coins, the double h is in bind (ligate) form. 

 

ER and E R+ also appear (the plus sign indicating the addition of an unidentified rune or symbol after the R). With the exception of the HHL group, all other groups feature the E rune. Usually EPA rune combinations on the obverse of the R8 series have their tops facing outwards and are read clockwise. ER runes usually face outwards. The combination that has been interpreted as HHL also have their tops facing outwards and are read clockwise.

The above have been incorporated into the Type classification.

 

EPA runes as Type 10-19

EP as Type 20-29

EA as Type 30-39

EA bind as Type 40-9

Unidentified symbol or rune before the EA Type 50-9

ER is listed as Type 60-9

The ER+ (runes read anti-clockwise) forms Type 70-9, this is given a different type number from the other ER coins as it also has a cross pommée behind the head in place of a horizontal chevron and unusual symbols within the standard on the reverse.

The HHL coins are given the designation of Type 80-9.

 

R8R

Runes EPA reading anti-clockwise are given the classification Type 200-209

Runes EPA reading clockwise are given the classification Type 210-219

EP as Type 220-229

EA as Type 230-234

+EA Bind as Type 237

ER as Type 240-249

ER+ Square Nose as Type 245

ER+ Pointed Nose as Type 248.

 

 

 

For help and general information about Sceatta, use the link to Tony Abramson's website in the "Links" page on this site.