Renewed study of the hoard of late Roman Hacksilber from Traprain Law (UK) is casting fresh light on this important find and on the wider phenomenon of Hacksilber. It is increasingly clear that such finds of sub-divided, broken-up Roman silver objects are not purely a 'barbarian' phenomenon, but were a normal way of treating silver in the late Empire in the north-western provinces. This plausibly relates to economic changes, with silver used as bullion alongside coinage. Although found on both sides of the frontier, hoards from Barbaricum differ in being dominated by Hacksilber. Various possible explanations are considered - notably plunder, payment for military service, and pay-offs or political 'gifts'. While all are plausible in different instances, payment and political gifts seem to fit much of the observed data better. A 'life-cycle' approach to such hoards is proposed, following the various phases of the different vessels from production through cycles of sub-division to deposition. Such detailed studies will greatly improve our understanding of this phenomenon.
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