Praeneste Aes Rude in Funerary and Ritual Deposits

Fernique 1878 :


“In the peperino sarcophagi some aes rude were recovered, ten of them also containing toilet articles…”


In the second trench, at a depth of 250 cm, there is a layer composed of amphorae debris, bricks and calcareous stones, below which was a layer of peperino blocks regularly cut, but which were not joined with cement, and formed, to a large extent, a kind of pavement, and nowhere have we found two superimposed layers: these blocks of peperino covered terracottas, many of which were intact. It appeared, therefore, that they had been covered with some care, and the workmen were surprised to find a layer of virgin soil about 50 centimeters thick, below which there were still many objects of the same nature and two pieces of aes rude. The ground had been stirred in antiquity and it was necessary to go farther, for at a depth of nearly 6 meters there were found a few ex-voto objects and a small Greek coin, badly preserved. It is impossible to see the trace of a legend.  The obverse had a bearded head of Jupiter, laureate (?), facing right; on the reverse a prancing horse turned to the right; it is undoubtedly a coin of Campania or Apulia.”

This could be a Syracusan coin of the time of Timoleon and the Third Democracy, circa 339/8-334 BCE, BUT that seems unlikely as I doubt a ~27mm diameter Greek bronze would be described as small.  So, ding ding ding, I think we have an ID it really has to be a coin of ARPI (HN Italy 644, ~17mm)–Fernique had good instincts with the Apulia claim.


But now lets meditate on the fact that this was UNDER the layer with aes rude.  This puts aes rude in use after the period in which this type was struck, ~325-275 BCE.   It also gives a terminus post quem for all those terracotta votives!


“The third trench was shallower than the other two; we met virgin soil only 4 meters down. It was there that I found, six or seven hundred intact objects, besides a great quantity of debris. These terracottas were contained in a kind of conduit dug in virgin soil and filled with topsoil. The channel was 40cm wide by 50cm deep, and did not have a regular direction. The workmen assured me that they had found it on this site during the first excavations, between the second and third trenches. At 60cm below this duct, a larger one was discovered, which crossed it almost at right angles. We could verify that it sank under the ground up to a distance of 4 meters. Thus, in this trench, the terracotta formed only one bed and were for the most part contained in a kind of conduit. In this place we have discovered about ten pieces of aes rude of assorted sizes.”

Here I like the importance of the work staff and how their local knowledge and expertise is acknowledged.


“A chemical analysis of the pieces of aes rude was conducted by a professor of chemistry at the University of Rome. It was found that two pieces of aes rude contained no trace of lead and that the alloy consisted only of copper and tin. However, in previous analyzes of aes rude from Vicarello, it had been noticed that the oldest fragments did not contain lead”


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