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The Saltford Carthaginian Coin

(300 BC - 264 BC)

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The History of Saltford

The Saltford Carthaginian Coin
(300 BC - 264 BC)


"the earliest tangible evidence
for contact between the
Mediterranean and Saltford"

Dr Sam Moorhead
National Finds Adviser for Iron Age and Roman Coins
Dept. of Portable Antiquities and Treasure
British Museum, London WC1
(6th March 2015)

BBC Points West reporter Ali Vowles with SEG's Phil Harding launching the 'Saltford Carthaginian Coin' to the general public at Saltford Brass Mill on 13th April 2015.

The British Museum has provided advice and guidance to Saltford Environment Group on the Carthaginian Coin, one of the oldest artefacts found in Saltford. This Iron Age copper coin dated at between 300 BC and 264 BC is possibly the oldest dateable evidence of human activity found in Saltford. It was found by a local resident on the Saltford side of the river Avon in Saltford in November 2012 after the river had burst its banks during a particularly severe flood.

It is also one of the oldest coins found in Britain and suggests early links between the Mediterranean and the Bristol Channel and/or the River Avon in the Iron Age. It is probably the earliest tangible evidence for contact between the Mediterranean and the West of England (River Avon area).

You can view the April 2015 public launch of the coin on BBC Points West on our "Videos about Saltford" page >>

The news video was made by BBC Points West Bath reporter Ali Vowles and broadcast by the BBC on 13th April 2015 as knowledge of the Saltford Carthaginian Coin was launched to the general public by Saltford Environment Group.

British Museum Identification

The following information about this coin was identified and recorded in December 2012 by the National Finds Adviser for Iron Age and Roman Coins, British Museum, Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure:-

Copper coin (20mm) of the Carthaginians, struck in the western Mediterranean, probably in Sardinia or at Carthage, 300-264 BC.
Obverse: Head of Tanit left; Reverse: horse's head right.
Date from: Exactly 300 BC (Certain)
Date to: Exactly 264 BC (Certain)
Weight: 4.6 g
Diameter: 20 mm
Date(s) of discovery: November 2012 after river flooding.

The Saltford Carthaginian Coin (Unique ID: FASAM-73C2A0) has been recorded and published by the British Museum on the Portable Antiquities Scheme online database at:

Comparison with another Carthaginian Coin

(These coins have been magnified to show detail)

To help you identify the features of the Carthaginian Coin, the image above shows the Saltford Carthaginian Coin (left, magnified) and one other that is cleaner and in better condition. It was originally found elsewhere (not in England).

Other Carthaginian coins featuring Tanit depict her wearing a wreath of wheat on her head and a different design of exotic 'dangly' earrings. On the Saltford Carthaginian coin despite the damage caused by long term corrosion (whilst the coin lay buried in the river's silt for over 2,000 years?) as far as we can tell Tanit is depicted wearing a wreath of wheat.

Only 8 Carthaginian Coins (including Saltford's) have been found in England (as at March 2015) and logged on the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) online database. These coins are usually on ancient trade routes (roads/rivers) in the S and SE of England.

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How did the coin get to Saltford?

  Map by Julian Balsdon, 2015.

In the Iron Age the ford at Saltford was probably one of only a few points where the River Avon, which was then tidal and without weirs and locks, could be easily crossed in this part of the West Country. Quite how and when the coin got to Saltford cannot be known. Very few of them have been found in southern and eastern England, and where found this has usually been near old trading routes.


The "History of Saltford" project has created some illustrated scenarios of just how the coin ended up in Saltford's river. These reflect some likely and perhaps less likely explanations for its arrival.

You can read the stories of how the coin might have been lost in Saltford involving Leah, our Celtic Maiden, 2,300 years ago here: Leah & the coin >>

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Tanit, Punics, Phoenecians and Carthage

The Punic and Phoenician goddess Tanit (left), Tanit's symbol on a stele (centre),
and Tanit's symbol found at the coastal city of Askelon, in southern Israel.

Tanit was a Punic and Phoenician goddess, the chief deity (in religious terms, a supernatural being who may be thought of as holy, godly, or sacred) of Carthage, a city in modern-day Tunisia, North Africa.

Tanit's shrine excavated at Sarepta (modern Sarafand, Lebanon) in southern Phoenicia revealed an inscription that identified her for the first time in her homeland and related her securely to the Phoenician goddess Astarte (Ishtar). As well as being a heavenly goddess of war, a virginal (not married) mother goddess and nurse, Tanit was also a symbol of fertility, as were most female forms in those ancient times.

Long after the fall of Carthage when the city was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, Tanit was still venerated in North Africa under the Latin name of Juno Caelestis.

The Punics
The Punics were a Semitic speaking people from Carthage in modern-day Tunisia, North Africa, who traced their origins to Phoenicians and North African Berbers. The Third Punic War between Rome and Carthage from 149-146 BC ended with the complete destruction of Carthage, allowing Rome to conquer modern day Tunisia and Libya.

The Phoenicians
The Phoenicians were an ancient Semitic civilization situated on the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent and centred on the coastline of modern Lebanon.

The Carthaginian Empire lasted over 600 years and was centred at the city of Carthage, modern day Tunis in Tunisia.

sculptureIn legend it was the exiled Queen Dido (Elissa) who founded Carthage in c. 814 BC, a century before the founding of Rome. She had fled from the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre (in modern day Lebanon) in 825 BC when her brother, King Pygmalion, killed her husband, Acerbas, for his gold.

Dido threw bags of sand into the sea pretending it was the gold and made off with the real gold to Cyprus and thence, eventually to Tunisia where in 814 BC she asked the local king if she could buy a small piece of land which would be as big as an ox hide. She then had the ox hide cut into extremely thin strips, which she attached together to ring a hill, where her people found the buried horse's head - it is thought to be the origin of the horse's head as a symbol used for Carthage on their coinage. With this omen in her favour Queen Dido then purchased and built Carthage.

At its peak, the metropolis Queen Dido founded, Carthage, administered 300 other cities around the western Mediterranean and lead the Phoenician (or Punic) world. It ruled the entire North African shore and the main island groups of the Western Mediterranean, plus most of Sicily and southern Andalucia. Carthage's massive outer walls were whitewashed, so it shone in the sun, and it was famed as "the shining city".

NOTE: The marble statue of Dido pictured above left is attributed to Christophe Cochet (18th Century).

The Punic Carthaginian's most famous war leader was Hannibal (247- c.181 BC). Considered by many historians as one of the greatest military strategists in history, one of his most famous achievements was at the outset of the Second Punic War, when he marched an army, including elephants, from Iberia over the Pyrenees and the Alps into Italy. He occupied most of Italy for 15 years, but a Roman counter-invasion of North Africa forced him to return to Carthage.

Hannibal was exiled from Carthage after the second Punic War and eventually poisoned himself rather than be captured by Romans in Armenia.

After Carthage was defeated in the third Punic War, in 146 BC a 'Carthaginian Peace' was declared by Rome. This entailed killing off the Carthaginian soldiers, burning all the ships in their fleet, burning the city for 17 days, and knocking down any buildings that were left, as well as the enslavement of the 50,000 civilians who survived; there was nothing left of the city or its inhabitants.

Our timeline for the life of the coin from 300 BC includes the key dates for Hannibal, the Punic Wars and the end of the Carthaginian empire - see Timeline: 300 BC to the modern age >> (new page).

Information sources for Tanit, The Punics, Phoenicians and Carthage:
http://en.wikipedia.org/ (2015)

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The Colossus of Rhodes (292-280 BC)

artworkThe Saltford Carthaginian Coin was struck in Sardinia at the same period (300-264 BC) as The Colossus of Rhodes (statue of the Greek Titan Helios, built 292-280 BC) was being erected on the island of Rhodes in the east of The Mediterranean Sea. The Colossus was 30 metres high (almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty) and had a bronze (or possibly brass, the sources of information on this differ) skin of plates riveted together, strengthened with an iron framework, and so required technologies from both the Bronze and Iron Ages.

The principal element in both bronze and brass is copper, and the Saltford coin is made of copper, so one could speculate that the coppersmiths who minted this coin were part of the same era of those who created the skin of The Colossus.

The Colossus was built to commemorate the ending of the siege of Rhodes by Demetrios, son of Antigous, one of the generals who succeeded Alexander The Great. Demetrios retreated when Egyptian forces came to Rhodes's aid and his army left massive siege machinery, containing bronze, iron and wood. The people of Rhodes celebrated by selling some of these resources and so raising money for a famous sculptor, Chares of Lindos, to use the rest of the bronze and iron to build a statue of their patron god, Helios.

According to one source 15 tons of bronze and 9 tons of iron were used, but these numbers seem low to modern engineers. The Colossus was felled by an earthquake in 226 BC and lay around in ruins for hundreds of years until it was sold in 653 AD, when Muslim caliph Muawiyah I captured Rhodes, broke up the statue and sold it as scrap to a Jewish merchant of Edessa who loaded the metal onto 900 camels to take away - maybe to be re-worked into copper coins..?

Information sources for 'The Colossus of Rhodes':
- Ashley, James R. (2004). The Macedonian Empire: The Era of Warfare Under Philip II and Alexander the Great, 359-323 B.C. McFarland & Company. p. 75. ISBN 0-7864-1918-0.
- Gabriel, M.H. BCH 16 (1932), pp. 332-42.
- Haynes, D.E.L. "Philo of Byzantium and the Colossus of Rhodes" The Journal of Hellenic Studies 77.2 (1957), pp. 311-312. A response to Maryon.
- Maryon, Herbert, "The Colossus of Rhodes" in The Journal of Hellenic Studies 76 (1956),
pp. 68-86. A sculptor's speculations on the Colossus of Rhodes.

Author and key contributor(s) for this page:
Phil Harding (Lead Author), Dick Bateman (Contributor)


Saltford Environment Group
W3C compliant website. Web page designed and produced by Phil Harding.

'The Saltford Carthaginian Coin' page links:-

See the launch on BBC TV (13.4.2015)

British Museum Identification

How did the coin get to Saltford?

Leah & the coin (new page)

Tanit, Punics, Phoenecians & Carthage

Links with the Colossus of Rhodes?

300 BC to the modern age (new page)

(Back to 'The History of Saltford')

Obverse (magnified)
Head of Tanit (Punic and Phoenician goddess) facing left

Reverse (magnified)
Horse's head facing right

We have also shown another coin found elsewhere (not in England) alonside the Saltford coin to enable you to make a direct comparison - see further down this page .


To read the stories telling of how Leah might have lost her coin click on her picture or here : Leah's story of the coin's arrival.