A tribe pieced together by gold
King Corio (circa. 25 BC – AD 5)
We know very little about the mysterious world of Iron Age or ‘Celtic’ Britain. Such little evidence has been left for us, but we can piece together a little of Iron Age society through a vital piece of evidence – coins. The tribes of southern Britain issued their own coins during the last 150 years of the Iron Age. They feature beautiful designs, inspired by Greek and Roman coins but rather than simply copying the Greek originals, they appear with a very Celtic twist to their artistry.
Horses appear most commonly, in stylised forms which hint at the artwork of the time. Intriguing patterns appear, such as the ‘tree’ symbol which appears on coins of the Dobunni tribe, who inhabited much of modern-day Gloucestershire. The exact nature of the design eludes us, but it is nonetheless beautiful, struck in rich, red, ancient gold.
Compared with today, coins were probably used in very different ways in Iron Age society. Large gold pieces such as this stater were likely used for high-status gift exchange among tribal chiefs and kings. They were also used as objects of worship, ritually buried in large hoards.