University of Hertfordshire

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The Penny’s Dropped: Renegotiating the contemporary coin deposit

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-189
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Material Culture
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2015


This article examines the status of coins as contemporary deposits in the British Isles. With a focus on both historical and contemporary sites, from the Neolithic long barrow of Wayland’s Smithy, Oxfordshire, to the plethora of wishing-wells and coin-trees distributed across the British Isles, it demonstrates the popularity of coins as ritual deposits. The author considers how they are perceived and treated by site custodians, and concludes with a case study of an archaeological
excavation, the 2013 Ardmaddy Wishing-Tree Project, which recovered a large amount of contemporary coin deposits. This article does not aim to locate itself within the debates of site custodianship and accessibility, nor does it propose to address the broader dilemmas of a site’s ritual continuity or resurgence. Instead, its aim is to encourage archaeologists to consider the contemporary deposit as an integral part of the ritual narrative of a site, rather than as disposable ‘ritual litter’.


This is the Accepted Manuscript of the following article: Ceri Houlbrook, “The penny’s dropped: Renegotiating the contemporary coin deposit”, Journal of Material Culture, Vol. 20(2): 173-189, March 2015. The final published version is available at: © 2015, © SAGE Publications.

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