Cut Jetton
Cut Jetton reverse

This rectangular copper alloy fragment was cut from a two-sided circular jetton, likely originating from the Netherlands in or around 1579. The obverse side of the jetton shows a female figure in Roman style clothing holding a cornucopia. The cornucopia is a common attribute of the Roman goddess Pax, the personification of peace. Much of the legend surrounding the figure is now missing, but the original jetton would have read TE POSCIMUS OMNES, meaning “you demand all”. The reverse side shows an imperial Roman style eagle holding an olive branch in its beak. Only the letters C, I, S, A, and O are now visible, but matching uncut jettons show that the legend would have read CAESARIS AVSPICIO, meaning “omen of Caesar.” This jetton references ancient Roman coins, on which the eagle is a symbol of imperial power, strength, and victory, while the olive branch represents peace. These two symbols were often used together to represent peace won through military victory. The presence of Pax, popularized in Roman art and iconography by Augustus, further emphasizes this theme of peace. In Augustan iconography, the figure of Pax represents the peace and stability of the new empire brought by Augustus’s military victories in both foreign and civil wars.

These themes are fitting for the date and location of the jetton’s making. The jetton was produced to commemorate peace talks made between the Spanish and Dutch from 1579-1580 during the Eighty Years War. In 1579 peace negotiations were begun in Cologne, Germany in an attempt to reconcile the demands of Philip II of Spain and the States-General, the body of delegates that represented the United Provinces of the Netherlands. However, the negotiations failed, resulting in the continuation of the war which did not officially end until 1646. This jetton was cut in such a way so that the eagle and the figure of Pax are still clearly visible, although the inscription has been partially lost. This rectangular piece may have been brought to Virginia to be used as either a trade item or as a gaming counter. Although the events commemorated on the jetton occurred about 30 years before the founding of James Fort, this lengthy international conflict impacted a number of the early English settlers. A few soldiers at Jamestown had previously served in the Netherlands, notably George Yeardley, who later served as governor in Virginia three times. This cut jetton, along with other jettons, medallions, and tokens, highlight England’s connection and alliance with the Low Countries in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

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