With regards to the pilgrim badges, as I said, 'many argue' it was ritual. I'm more open minded on the subject, until we have far more data. However, having also looked a this some years ago with Brain Spencer I did come to the conclusion that something interesting was going on. In terms of pure statistics if nothing else. For example, the large scale excavations of largely dry land sites that took place in Norwich, one of England's leading cities during the later Middle Ages, in the 1970s and 80s turned up very few religious or secular badges. The same, as far as I am aware, is the case in Canterbury. What is intriguing then is the number that turn up in the nearby rivers or waterfronts, whether religious or secular badges. In terms of area investigated there did appear to be a damp bias.
This becomes even more intriguing when you consider that several of the badge types that have previously been considered as secular may in fact have been fundamentally religious in nature (the Ragged Staff for example). Having said that, the number of badges were are dealing with really is only the tip of the iceberg, so it's difficult to draw too many conclusions. Personally knowing two 'enthusiasts' who both have collections to rival Mitchener (largely unprovenanced) I suspect our data will always be a bit biased.
As for mast stepping as a continuous practice - it appears it was, but perhaps not all in the same geographical location. We just don't have evidence from the UK for the early medieval period. It certainly continued in the Mediterranean. It is then recorded in the UK again in the C14th/C15th, with good examples then coming from every century thereafter. Even the C18th British vessel discovered in New York, on the site of the former World Trade Centre, appears to have a coin beneath the mast. Whether the meaning and function remained the same is open to question. I particularly like the fact that one of the US Navy's modern nuclear powered aircraft carriers has a number of coins apparently welded to the keel plate.
From: British archaeology discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of John Clark
Sent: 05 September 2016 18:40
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Coins in Water
Matt Champion wrote
>If you widen the question beyond just coins, and think about the ritual
>deposition of metallic objects in water, then you can possibly include
>the significant collections of medieval pilgrim badges found in watery
>location, which many argue were the result of ritual deposition. The
>other site for the ritual deposition of coins is of course beneath the
>mast, or mast step, of a newly constructed ship. This practice still
>continues today, with direct and continuous evidence that it dates at
>least as far back as the Roman period. However, just because the
>practice continues doesn't necessarily mean it was undertaken at all
>periods for the same reason. Beliefs evolve, and 'habits' continue.<
I'll certainly agree fully with your last sentence, Matt. However, two points:
'medieval pilgrim badges found in watery location, which many argue were the result of ritual deposition.' - but there are just as many (relative to the overall frequency) SECULAR badges found in watery locations as pilgrim/religious badges. If medieval people were 'ritually' depositing religious emblems in rivers (not wells incidentally) why were they doing the same with secular (and sometimes quite rude) emblems? (If you want my argument about the statistics see https://www.academia.edu/9809394/Medieval_finds_from_the_River_Thames_accidental_loss_rubbish_or_ritual (pp 6-7 in particular).
'The other site for the ritual deposition of coins is of course beneath the mast, or mast step, of a newly constructed ship. This practice still continues today, with direct and continuous evidence that it dates at least as far back as the Roman period.' - I'd take issue with your 'continuous evidence'. Matt - what happened in the early Anglo-Saxon period when there WERE no coins in circulation to deposit under the mast?
As to coins in wells - the medieval/post-medieval practice, as Vince Russett says, involved PINS not coins - I don't know when coins came to be commonly used instead.