Saturday, 18 November 2017

Early mechanical carriages

A number of years ago I acquired a run of The Antiquary journal from the late 19th century. One of the articles in there, spread over several parts, appeals to my “steam punk” nature. In the volume for 1896 the title is Early Mechanical Carriages by Rhys Jenkins.

It is a series of descriptions of weird and quirky prototypes for vehicles, accompanied by woodblock prints from the seventeenth century through to the nineteenth century. I really doubt that man of these ever progressed beyond the drawing board phase and were ever built. They look like the entrants in a Victorian “Wacky Races” event.

Several years ago I offered the article on eBay, quite cheaply, thinking that people would be interested in buying it and framing the diagrams. Luckily it didn't sell and is still intact. Hope you enjoy the pictures.


Monday, 13 November 2017

An eastern antoninianus of Valerian I

Valerian I, antoninianus, Samosata mint, Göbl 1682e

I recently acquired this coin of Valerian I (253-60AD). Struck at the mint of Samosata (Samsat in Adiyaman province, southeastern Turkey) the reverse is quite clearly is referencing eastern events with two victories affixing a shield to a palm tree and with the legend VOTA ORBIS.

It may be marking the dedicatory vows anticipating the military campaign in the easy against the Sasanid ruler Shapur I, a campaign that was to end in disaster through the treachery of one of Valerian’s military commanders. Valerian was captured, in AD 260, by Shapur and was never to be seen alive again, having been reputedly killed, stuffed and used by the Sasanid ruler to mount his horse.

The capture of Valerian in 260 was seemingly the catalyst for a number of revolts right across the Roman empire that were to set the tone for the next fifteen years.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Mauseus on Facebook

Mauseus is now on Facebook.

Mauseus Facebook site

All Hallows Church, Bardsey

Today I got to the village church in Bardsey. Oddly, having lived in the vicinity for forty years or so, I have only just learned of it's antiquity. The church is undoubtedy ancient, All Hallows church includes elements of an Anglo Saxon church dating between 850-950 AD with impressive Saxon tower and, in all probability, is the finest Saxon building in West Yorkshire.

The remnants of the successive changes are all evidenced within the building as it stands today.

 What really drew me to the site were the small stone relics in the church that include 11th century grave marker inscribed with a crudely carved Latin cross and probable include Saxon and Viking era carvings.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

New sales website

I have changed my selling platform for the ancient coins and antiquities. The link on the left to Mauseus Sales wil take you there. There are rare and interesting genuine ancient items on offer should you wish to take a look like this "DEO ET DOMINO...." coin of Aurelian.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Prehistoric plants

Five years ago (almost to the day) I posted an ancient Greek coin that had the extinct silphium plant as its reverse design. I have a group of other extinct plants that I have been meaning to post for a while and have finally got around to photographing the early plant fossils. They are all horsetails or club mosses (or relatives of them) and date to the Carboniferous period, approximately 360-300 mybp.

Annularia is a plant fossil belonging to the order Equisetales or Horsetail. Whorls of small leaflets are arranged concentrically around a thin stem. These were indicative of humid to wet habitats such as along rivers and lake shores.

Sigillaria (relative of club moss)
Sigillaria is a genus of extinct, spore-bearing, arborescent (tree-like) plants. It was a lycopodiophyte, and is related to the lycopsids, or club-mosses.

Reaching a height up to 30 metres, with a tall, single or occasionally forked trunk that lacked wood. Support came from a layer of closely packed leaf bases just below the surface of the trunk, while the centre was filled with pith. The long, thin grass like leaves were attached directly to the stem and grew in a spiral along the trunk. The old leaf bases expanded as the trunk grew in width.

The trunk was topped with a plume of long, grass-like, microphyllous leaves, so that the plant looked somewhat like a tall, forked bottle brush. The plant bore its spores (not seeds) in cone-like structures.

 Lepidodendron cone/strobilus
Lepidodendron (related to club moss)
Lepidodendron had tall, thick trunks that rarely branched and were topped with a crown of bifurcating branches bearing clusters of leaves. These leaves were long and narrow, similar to large blades of grass, and were spirally-arranged.

Lepidodendron has been likened to a giant herb. The trunks produced little wood, being mostly soft tissues. Most structural support came from a thick, bark-like region. This region remained around the trunk as a rigid layer that grew thicker, but did not flake off like that of most modern trees. As the tree grew, the leaf cushions expanded to accommodate the increasing width of the trunk.

Lepidodendron likely lived in the wettest parts of the coal swamps that existed during the Carboniferous period. They grew in dense stands, likely having as many as 1000 to 2000 plants per hectare. This would have been possible because they did not branch until fully grown, and would have spent much of their lives as unbranched poles.

They sometimes reached heights of over 30 metres, and the trunks were often over 1 metre in diameter.

Calamites (horsetail)Calamites is a genus of extinct arborescent (tree-like) horsetails to which the modern horsetails (genus Equisetum) are closely related. Unlike their herbaceous modern cousins, these plants were medium-sized trees, growing to heights of more than 30 metres (100 feet).

Club moss
Club mossThe climate supported lush, swampy forests. Club moss (Lycopods) made up the largest component of these forests and achieved gigantic size, growing to heights of more than 40 metres with supporting trunks measuring up to 2 metres or more in diameter.

Monday, 2 October 2017

The Devil's Arrows, Boroughbridge

I finally stopped off in Boroughbridge this weekend, after knowing of their existence for over forty years, to photograph the three monoliths collectively known as the Devil’s Arrows.

The Devil's Arrows consists of three huge stones that remain from an original four or five that stood in a southeast to northwest alignment less than 200 metres from the modern day A1(M) motorway, however they are of course considerably older dating from either the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age. The stone at the southern end of the alignment is partially hidden under trees in its own fenced enclosure on the south side of a road that leads from Boroughbridge to Roecliffe and stands nearly 7 metres tall making it the second tallest standing stone in Britain only beaten by the mighty 8 metre monolith at Rudston, near Bridlington.

All three stones are made of millstone grit and are heavily weathered and fluted at their peaks, probably due to erosion by rainfall over the years, with the northern and southern stones having various indentations that could be interpreted as being cup marks although these marks could either be natural or the result of deliberate damage to the stones over the years (the southern stone is also carved with a modern OS benchmark, circled in the photo below).

It is thought that they may have been arranged to align with the southernmost summer moonrise. The stones are part of a wider Neolithic complex on the Ure-Swale plateau which incorporates the Thornborough Henges.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Expectate Veni

 EXPECTATE VENI, Denarius, RIC 554

The acquisition of my latest ‘Expectate’ coin of Carausius (fifth coin and the second silver denarius) has prompted this post.

EXPECTATE VENI, Denarius, RIC cf 554

The reverse legend “EXPECTATE VENI” is only found on the Roman coins of the British usurper Carausius. No other emperors used the legend. It comes from Vergil’s Aenid. The legend roughly translates as 'Come O Long Awaited One', although, as Casey (1977) points out, the quote from the Aeneid is somewhat out of context and rather than it being a momentous arrival the original is rather sombre and introspective in mood as it continues:

"And, oh, how harrowing was the sight of him; how changed he was from the old Hector... Now his beard was ragged and his hair clotted with blood, and all these wounds which he had sustained fighting to defend the walls of his homeland could still be seen."

 EXPECTATE, Antoninianus, RIC cf 605

The reverse type of the coin, struck at the beginning of Carausius’ reign and shows two figures greeting, occasionally with an altar between them, interpreted as Britannia greeting the new ruler.

EXPECTATE VENI, Antoninianus, RIC cf 605

EXPICTA, Antoninianus, RIC 774

Casey, P.J; 'Tradition and Innovation in the Coinage of Carausius and Allectus' in Munby, J and Henig, M; Roman Life and Art in Britain (1977)

Monday, 14 August 2017

Roman portraits

As well as having my page attempting to get a portrait of every person who appears on a Roman coin I have also been playing at removing the portrait from the the coin by manipulating the image to paint out the background. The idea was to produce a calendar of Roman portraits for a handful of friends. I thing the results are quite pleasing and by removing the lettering that surrounds the bust you get a better impression of the artistry involved in creating a numismatic portrait.

Julia Domna


 Maximinus I
 Philip I




Constantius II

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Viking hack silver

Cut bar hack silver
Following my earier post on the Vikings I want to post a little about hack silver, a prevalent feature of Viking finds. Hack silver is, as the name suggests, cut up bits of silver objects, such as Islamic coins, jewellery etc, but also metal from these sources reformed into bars and strips or even droplets.
Globular hack silver
I had thought that this material was then remanufactured into other items like jewellery or new coin of Viking type but it appears that hack silver itself was used as a form of exchange into the early 11th century and I wonder whether it is any coincidence that the three pieces that I have conform approximately to the weight of a half penny (dirhem fragment, 0.5 grammes), penny (globule, 1 gramme) and three halfpence (cut bar, 1.6 grammes), albeit at a time when the weight of a penny fluctuated greatly, even within a single series.

Islamic Ayyubid dirhem cut, Viking hack silver
It has been postulated that there became a social divide in the use of hack silver as a means of exchange through time where once it had been used universally within Viking culture with the lower strata continuing to use it whilst the more elite began to become a more monetized society. With increasing monetization the range of weights of any particular series of coin became more fixed and the value for exchange was done less by weight and more by recognised value.

Islamic dirham of the Ayyubids, 192 AH
The use of hack silver as a method of exchange seems to have petered out during the 11th century and this has been linked to the debasement of the Islamic dirhems of the Fatimid dynasty.