Shortly after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, a wealthy local buried a trove of 2528 coins in what is now Somerset, England. Featuring the likenesses of both Harold II, the country’s last crowned Anglo-Saxon king—and his successor, William the Conqueror, the hoard is the largest collection of post-Norman Conquest coins found to date. But that’s not all: As the British Museum reports, the medieval money also represents an early example of the seemingly modern practice of tax evasion.
Three of the silver pieces found were ‘mules’ or illegally crafted coins boasting designs from mismatched dies on either side. Two boast Harold’s image on one side and William’s on the other, while the third depicts William and Harold’s predecessor, Edward the Confessor. By re-using an outdated die, the moneyer who made the coins avoided paying taxes on new dies.
According to the British Museum, the collection contains 1,236 coins bearing Harold’s likeness, 1,310 coins testifying to William’s takeover and various silver fragments. In total, the Harold coins outnumber the collective amount known to exist previously by almost double. The William coins, meanwhile, represent more than five times the number of previously recovered pieces issued by the Norman king following his coronation in 1066.
Image Courtesy: smithsonianmag.com | Pippa Pearce, Trustee of British Museum