Saw this mentioned on the Classicists list … the folks at UWarwick are putting together something which will, no doubt, be very useful … here’s a bit from the introductory blurb:
Work on provincial coins in the Roman Empire has demonstrated their potential to be used as a source to understand local culture as well as perceptions of the emperor and Roman power. The provincial coinage of the Republican period, however, has received little attention. By examining the iconography of coins struck by Roman officials and cities outside Rome in the period 168-27 BC, this project seeks to uncover how Roman power was represented, negotiated or rejected before the creation of the principate.
From Novinite … sounds like one we’ll be hearing more about (hopefully):
A team of Bulgarian archaeologists has found a coin treasure from the 3rd century BC near the southeastern-most Bulgarian Black Sea village of Sinemorets.
The coin treasure was discovered by the team of Prof. Daniela Agre excavating archaeological sites in the region in a ceramic vessel.
“We are now working, cleaning around the vessel. Once we lift it, we will be able to say how many are there. This is a treasure consisting of silver coins, a large one,” she told the Focus news agency.
Prof. Agre explained the vessel containing the coins was found buried next to a tower of the fortified home of an Ancient Thracian ruler that has been known to the Bulgarian archaeologists since 2006.
The archaeologist pointed out that there are only a few cases in which coin treasures of such scope have been found during excavations in Bulgaria.
She believes the coins in question were most likely minted by Alexander the Great or his officer and successor Lysimachus. Agre promised to provide more information later.
… if you’re keeping score of who finds what in Bulgaria, Dr Agre is the archaeologist who found that chariot burial a couple of years ago (Chariot Burial (and more) from Borissovo)
A few items that are ‘project related’ have been laying in my mailbox for various lengths of time and it seems useful to gather them together in one post.
First, a tip ‘o the pileus to Charles Jones for alerting us (via his AWOL blog today) of this very interesting and potentially useful (French) web project dealing with cataloging curse tablets from various parts of the Roman world. The Tabella Defixionis Project seems to be a work in progress, and not every entry has a photo, but there is some very useful bibliography for each one. Some areas of the greco-roman world have better coverage than others (Israel seems a bit scant). Whatever the case, check it out at:
Next, we have the Online Coins of the Roman Empire project, which was actually announced a couple of weeks ago (and plenty of people have nudged me about it), but I was unable to connect to it for ages for reasons unknown. Its goals are to publish every type of Roman Imperial coin out there and link to images of them whenever possible. It has search capabilities and is very clearly laid out. It’s definitely off to a good start, with over 8000 items already cataloged:
Fulfilling the scholastic rule of three, Stephen Jenkin of Classics Library fame tweeted about UPenn’s Vergil Project, which actually began years ago (before the turn of the millennium, in fact) but which seems not to have had much publicity along the way. Here’s their official description:
The Vergil Project is a resource for students, teachers, and readers of Vergil’s Aeneid. It offers an on-line hypertext linked to interpretive materials of various kinds. These include basic information about grammar, syntax, and diction; several commentaries; an apparatus criticus; help with scansion; and other resources.
… and what you get is the Latin text on the left side, with numerous useful linked things in the sidebar, including commentaries (including Servius), a concordance, translations (both ‘nice’ and ‘literal’) and other things of use. Definitely worth a look and possibly the sort of thing that should be emulated for other works (it seems to make use of Perseus’ materials, but I might be wrong with that). All that’s missing (in my view) would be a continuously-updated bibliography and/or comment facilities (but given the nature of the internet, comments might not be a good thing).
That said, perhaps some central agency could organize a project whereby a particular Classics department did one or two authors, perhaps based on the interests of some senior academics, in a similar format? Might be a good project for some upper level undergraduates … just sayin’. In any event, here’s the link:
Interesting press release from Southampton which has been making the rounds of the news outlets in various forms … here’s the first three-quarters or so:
Archaeologists and engineers from the University of Southampton are collaborating with the British Museum to examine buried Roman coins using the latest X-ray imaging technology.
Originally designed for the analysis of substantial engineering parts, such as jet turbine blades, the powerful scanning equipment at Southampton’s µ-VIS Centre for Computed Tomography is being used to examine Roman coins buried in three archaeological artefacts from three UK hoards.
The centre’s equipment can scan inside objects – rotating 360 degrees whilst taking thousands of 2D images, which are then used to build detailed 3D images. In the case of the coins, the exceptionally high energy/high resolution combination of the Southampton facilities allows them to be examined in intricate detail without the need for physical excavation or cleaning. For those recently scanned at Southampton, it has been possible to use 3D computer visualisation capabilities to read inscriptions and identify depictions of emperors on the faces of the coins – for example on some, the heads of Claudius II and Tetricus I have been revealed.
University of Southampton archaeologist, Dr Graeme Earl says, “Excavating and cleaning just a single coin can take hours or even days, but this technology gives us the opportunity to examine and identify them quickly and without the need for conservation treatment at this stage. It also has potential for examining many other archaeological objects.
“The University’s Archaeological Computing Research Group can then take this one step further – producing accurate, high resolution CGI visualisations based on scan data. This gives archaeologists and conservators around the world the opportunity to virtually examine, excavate and ‘clean’ objects.”
Dr Roger Bland, Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum comments, “This scanning technique is already yielding some fascinating results and the possibility of identifying a hoard of coins in a pot, without removing them, is very exciting. Working with archaeologists and engineers at Southampton, it is exciting to be pioneering and exploring the potential of a process which is faster, cheaper and less interventive than excavation.”
The three objects examined at Southampton are:
• A cremation urn containing nine coins, dating from AD282, found in the Cotswolds. This item in particular would take months to excavate – with archaeologists needing to carefully examine bone fragments and remains to extract more information about its past.
• An estimated 30,000 Roman coins discovered in Bath, dating to around AD270 and concreted together in a large block weighing over 100 kilograms
(radiograph image only).
• A small pot dating to the 2nd century found in the Selby area of East Riding in Yorkshire.
There’s also a link to this video, which shows the Selby material imaging:
Coincidentally, perhaps, earlier this week we were getting the protoclassicist in the family oriented down the 401 at Queen’s University, and while he and his mom were doing the tour of residences (with him excited and mom disgusted, of course), I wandered up to my old stomping grounds in Watson Hall to see if anyone was around. They weren’t, but I did notice a couple of important things. First, the departmental coffee lounge was rather smaller (and cleaner) than I remember it, and second, it was nice to see that some of the Queen’s people’s posters from conference poster sessions were adorning the walls (I think I’ve mentioned I’m a big fan of such things). Anyhoo, one of those posters was by Kate Sullivan, who appears to have just graduated from the Art Conservation program at Queen’s (which has ties to Classics, natch) and the subject of her poster was Comparing X-ray Computed Tomography Images of Corroded Coins with the Results from Traditional Cleaning … I made a note of the name and was very surprised when I got home to find this Southampton thing (on pretty much the same technology) in my box. Even better, though, I managed to find Kate Sullivan’s poster on the web as a pdf … (more of these please!).
Just seeing if this might be an alternative platform when I'm away from my laptop …
… hopefully I'll properly blog this one later …
The coin hoard which dates from 50BC weighs about three quarters of a tonne
Traces of gold and silver may be buried within the hoard of Roman and Celtic coins found in Jersey last week.
Olga Finch, curator of archaeology at Jersey Heritage, said: “We have spotted traces of jewellery, a piece of twisted silver and little thin sheets of gold with a hint of decoration on the edge.”
She said once they had removed the items they could be identified.
The 50,000 coins, thought to be worth up to £200 each, were found by two metal detectorists last week.
The find was believed to be one of Europe's largest hoards of ancient coins and weighed about three quarters of a tonne.
Ms Finch said: “The fact that there are traces of jewellery and person ornaments and belongings, it puts a whole new dimension to it.”
The hoard was discovered after more than 30 years of searching by Reg Mead and Richard Miles.
Now Jersey Heritage staff are working with the Société Jersiaise and experts from the British Museum to build a clearer picture of what was found.
Neil Mahrer, conservator with Jersey Heritage, said: “As we unravel the story behind the hoard we are beginning to make some very exciting discoveries.”
He said the coins were of Armorican origin – the modern day Brittany and Normandy in France – and were from a tribe called the Coriosolitae, who were based around Rance in the area of modern-day Saint Malo and Dinan.
Neil Mahrer said: “As we unravel the story behind the hoard we are beginning to make some very exciting discoveries”
He said the coins dated from the time the armies of Julius Caesar were advancing north-westwards through France, driving the tribal communities towards the coast.
“Some of them would have crossed the sea to Jersey, finding a safe place of refuge away from Caesar's campaigns,” Mr Mahrer.
“The only safe way to store their wealth was to bury it in a secret place.”
The hoard has been reported to the HM Receiver General who will determine its status.
I’m sure most of you have seen this — it’s been making the rounds these past couple of days — from Wired:
*This one features the Moon driving her chariot over a housefly.
*I can’t doubt that this made perfect sense at the time. It’s like: you got drunk, and you went to the gladiatorial games, and you watched half a dozen guys get slaughtered. And then you were broke. And hung over. And then you asked your friend, Julius: “Hey. Can you loan me a couple of houseflies? Just to tide me over till payday?”
“No problem, buddy.” Clink. Clink.
… accompanied by a very large photo:
It was also accompanied by a link to the British Museum catalog, whence it presumably came, but, alas, it didn’t work. So for those of you who were wondering, it’s a Denarius dated to 179-170 B.C. … official description:
(obverse) Helmeted head of Roma, right; behind, denominational mark. Border of dots.
(reverse) Luna in biga, right, with horses prancing; below, mark; in exergue, inscription. Line border.
The fly is curious, but the one I’ve always wondered about is the grasshopper, e.g. on this one from the 90s B.C.:
… or this one from 92 B.C.:
I’ve often wondered whether these little things (which are often beneath the rearing feet of a horse) are some sort of family/national symbol or something, but have never been able to check that out. Does the grasshopper indicate a year when grain was threatened and the threat averted? Was the moneyer’s family rewarded with an agnomen because of it? Was including the grasshopper the fulfillment of some sort of vow?
What will likely be a pile of coverage just starting on this one … here’s the incipit what the Telegraph says:
David Crisp, a 63-year-old hospital chef, located the 52,503 coins in a single earthenware pot in a field near Frome, Somerset.
Mr Crisp, from Devizes in Wiltshire, said his detector gave a “funny signal” prompting him to dig down and have a look.
What he found was an astonishing collection of coins from the 3rd century AD, a period barely touched in most history books on Roman Britain.
“The joy of metal detecting is that you never know what you will find,” said Mr Crisp, who has been sweeping the fields for 20 years.
“I always live in hope but didn’t expect to find something like this.”
All the coins had been left in a single two-foot-high pot. At 160kg – just over 25 stone – the haul weighs as much as two fully grown men.
It is slightly smaller than the largest ever British Roman coin hoard, of 54,912 pieces, found in two pots near Marlborough, Wilts, in 1978.
A selection of the Frome coins, found in April, is to go on display at the British Museum from July 22 until mid-August.
Roger Bland, its head of portable antiquities and treasure, said 766 coins were from the reign of the “lost” British emperor Carausius, who ruled the province from 286 to 293 without the authority of Rome.
Carausius fell out of favour with the Roman Emperor Maximian after he used his Channel fleet to amass enormous wealth by capturing pirate ships.
Maximian ordered his execution but the rebel refused to submit and ruled Britain and northern Gaul in defiance of Rome.
He became the first emperor to strike coins in Britain, which he did to affirm his legitimacy. Five of the Carausius coins are solid silver, the first such pure coins minted anywhere in the Roman empire in over 150 years.
Despite the Frome haul’s quantity, most are a relatively common denomination known as ‘radiates’, made of debased silver and bronze. The haul is likely to be worth around £250,000, given prices for individual coins. [...]
The BBC has a nice little video interview with the finder, which includes some good shots of what was found and which also causes one to think that we really need to start using a word other than ‘hoard’ to describe these things ….
Daniel Pett (of Portable Antiquities fame) has an excellent/extensive photoset of coins from the hoard at Flickr …
- UK treasure hunter finds 52,000 Roman coins | AP
- Treasure hunter finds huge Roman coin hoard | Reuters
- Man unearths 52,000 Roman coins | Press Association
- Hoard of Roman coins found | UPI (which considers it ‘odd news’, apparently)
Demonstrating that chemistry sometimes can inform history, researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Colorado College and Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., have shown that sensitive nondestructive evaluation (NDE) techniques can be used to determine the elemental composition of ancient coins, even coins that generally have been considered too corroded for such methods*. Along the way, the researchers’ analysis of coins minted in ancient Judea has raised new questions about who ruled the area while giving insight into trading patterns and industry in the region.
Elemental and isotope analysis of the metals in ancient artifacts sometimes can pinpoint the places where the metal was mined, because ores in a given region often have a unique composition. This can be combined with historical records of when mines in the area were operating to determine when the coin was likely struck. The results not only help date the coin, but also offer insight into trade and power relationships in the region.
To compare the effectiveness of various nondestructive analytical methods with destructive methods often used to determine the age and origin of ancient coins, the group studied coins minted by Kings Herod Agrippa I and Agrippa II in what is modern day Palestine and Israel, a biblically and historically significant period.
The vast numbers of a particular coin, a prutah, found in the archaeological record has led scholars to disagree about when they were struck and by whom. The provenance of the coin is important because it is used to establish dates for places and events in the early years of Christianity and the onset of the Jewish War (66-70 CE) against the Romans and the Diaspora that followed.
To better establish whether the coins were minted by Agrippa I (41-45 CE) or Agrippa II (after 61 CE), the team performed X-ray fluorescence and lead isotope analysis to fingerprint the ores used in the production of the coins. These NDE methods are not commonly used on corroded coins because the corrosion can affect the results—in some cases making it difficult to get a result at all. The team showed that these problems could be overcome using polarizing optics and powerful new software for X-ray fluorescence analysis, combined with careful calibration of the mass spectrometer using Standard Reference Materials from NIST**.
The lead isotope analysis, performed at NIST, showed that the coins that had been attributed to Agrippa I were indeed from that era. More interestingly, however, the group found that the copper from which the coins were made most likely came from mines that scholars thought hadn’t been opened until a century later.
“All the archaeological evidence has thus far suggested that the Romans had moved into Arabia in the 2nd century CE,” says Nathan Bower of Colorado College. “What this analysis shows is that the Romans may have reached the region earlier or found that these mines had already been opened. Either way, our findings suggest that the Romans had a much closer relationship with this particular region than scholars had previously thought.”
To follow up on their research, the group is planning to perform more tests to determine if the mines in question may have been operating even earlier than their recent findings suggest.
Interesting press release from the Austrian Mint:
For some five centuries the River Danube formed an essential part of ancient Rome’s northern border against the barbarian tribes of Germania. The Austrian Mint’s new silver series called “Rome on the Danube” breathes life back into the ruined remains of the towns and forts that played such prominent roles in the life of the Roman Empire in Austria.
The province of Noricum covered about two-thirds of modern day Austrian territory. It had been originally a kingdom of Celtic tribes until it was taken over by the Romans in a peaceful occu-pation under the Emperor Augustus in about 15 B.C. Thirty years later the Emperor Claudius converted Noricum into a regular Roman province and established the city of VIRUNUM as its adminis-trative capital. Military command was vested not in the governor at Virunum, but rather in the commander of the legions standing guard along the River Danube in the north. The governor was ap-pointed by the emperor in Rome. His primary responsibility was for finance and taxation as well as for the administration of Roman law and order. His capital stood on a Roman road connecting it to Aquileia in the south and to Ovilava (Wels) in the north and the Limes or string of forts and towers guarding the Danube border.
Virunum was the cultural centre of life in Noricum with the only great amphitheatre to have been discovered on Austrian territory. Built on the classical Roman system of a rectangular grid of streets with large open forums housing temples and grand basilicas, Virunum was an unfortified township like many other such settlements – a tribute to the Pax Romana (the Roman Peace). The streets were unpaved, but the city had a plentiful supply of water feeding public fountains and a good drainage system with lead piping. On an artificially built terrace above the city were a military camp and an elliptically shaped arena for animal and gladiatorial combat, as well as military exer-cises and training or parades.
The lack of walls rendered Virunum vulnerable to marauding tribes that managed to cross the Danube and raid the rich Roman province of Noricum, and in times of weakness and turmoil the city did fall prey to plundering barbarians. In the early Chris-tian era Virunum had its own bishop and church. Exactly when the city was abandoned we do not know, but abandoned it was. Its noble buildings of stone and marble became quarries for building materials, until the earth itself decently covered over the wounds of its ruins, leaving it to modern archaeologists to re-awaken Roman Virunum once more from its centuries’ long sleep.
The new 20 Euro silver coin shows a profile portrait of the Emperor Claudius, who founded Virunum (“Municipium Claudium Virunum”). In the background one sees a Roman wagon drawn by a pair of horses. It is part of a grave stone from Virunum, pres-ently affixed to the south wall of the church in neighbouring Maria-Saal. The reverse side displays an imaginary street scene. A Roman wagon drives past the portico of a temple. At the back rise the high walls and roof of a grand basilica. In the foreground to the left we find a blacksmith hammering the highly-prized Noric iron into swords for the Roman legions. The name at the base of the coin identifies the city as Virunum.
The new € 20 silver coin is struck in proof quality only and to maximum mintage of 50,000 worldwide. Each coin comes in an attractive box with a numbered certificate of authenticity. A collection case for the whole series of six coins may be purchased separately.
In September the second coin of the series, “VINDOBONA” (Vienna), will be issued.
Lots of coverage of this one, but all of it very brief:
Archaeologists have uncovered bronze coins bearing the image of ancient Egyptian ruler King Ptolemy III in an oasis south of the capital, the culture ministry announced on Thursday.Also found by the Egyptian team were necklaces made of ostrich eggshell, it said.The 383 items dating back more than 2,250 years were found near Lake Qarun in Fayum oasis, around 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Cairo, the ministry said in a statement, adding that they were in excellent condition.The coins weighed 32 grams (1.12 ounces) each, with one face depicting the god Amun and the other the words “king” and “Ptolemy III” in Greek along with his effigy, the statement said.
Other objects from different periods were also found during the dig, in addition to parts of a whale skeleton around 42 million years old, it added.
The ministry said it was the first time Egyptian archaeologists had found necklaces made from ostrich eggshell at Fayum.
Of Greek origin, the Ptolemaic dynasty ruled from around 330 BC to 30 BC and was Egypt’s last before the country fell under Roman rule. Queen Cleopatra was the dynasty’s final sovereign.
… we’ll be updating this later with more coverage and any photos I manage to find.
Related articles by Zemanta
- Egypt Finds Hoard Of 2,000-Year-Old Bronze Coins (huffingtonpost.com)
From Balkan Travellers:
Around 20 coins with the image of the father of Alexander the Great, Philip II of Macedon, and “other ancient Macedonian rulers” were found by archaeologists during excavations along the road between the south-western Macedonian towns of Ohrid and Struga, national media reported today.In addition to the coins, a space with around 1,000 arrows was also discovered, Director of the Cultural Heritage Protection Office Pasko Kuzman told the Alsat-M television station.The archaeological find was made in the vicinity of the Cyclops Fortress, which – according to Kuzman, dates to the 358 BC when Philip II passed through the area with his army. The fortress, he added, was a strategic military position for the ruler’s army.Although Philip II of Macedon’s biggest claim to historical claim is perhaps his fathering of Alexander the Great, the ancient Greek personage 382 – 336 BC was a great ruler and military strategist in his own right, who largely realised his expansionist vision.
I’m not clear whether the photo accompanying the original article depicts one of the coins found or not …
Not sure if we’ve mentioned this one before; it seems to have been found a year or so ago:
Historians investigating a hoard of Roman coins unearthed in south Warwickshire are hoping to ensure they remain in the county – and to solve the mystery of who buried them.
The cache of 1,146 silver denarii dating from 209 BC to 64AD – the largest in the county – was found by metal detector enthusiast Keith Bennett and declared treasure trove last year.
The coins themselves shed light on the brutal and often corrupt machinations of the Roman Empire, but Warmington Heritage Group is trying to find out why they were buried and what they reveal about life in the area in the first century AD.
One theory has it that whoever buried the coins – then around five years’ pay for a Roman soldier – knew that the Emperor Nero was devaluing denarii by lowering the silver content.
Archaeologist David Freke, who has been involved in excavations nearby in 2008, believes whoever did so was a “financially astute” individual effectively gambling on the currency market.
Speaking to Warmington Heritage Group on Monday, Dr Stanley Ireland of Warwick University warned that the collection, currently being valued, should not be broken up and sold to private collectors.
Dr Ireland also explained how some coins’ rarity gave an insight into the political turmoil of the time.
Some, bearing the head of the Emperor Caligula, were recalled after he was murdered. Another double-headed coin shows the young Nero with his mother, whom he later tried to have killed in an ‘accident’, sending soldiers to finish the job when she escaped.
Others, known as ‘tribute’ coins, date from the reign of the Emperor Tiberius and are taken to be the money Jesus referred to when he told people to pay their taxes.
The hoard also contains counterfeits with a low silver content and a north African silver coin dating to the period of the Roman Republic and the Greek Empire.
Although Roman farms have recently been identified in nearby Tysoe, the hoard is the earliest Roman find in Warmington by some 300 years. The village group has applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for digs that may reveal why a wealthy person would have been there and why that spot – possibly a ditch or inside a building – was chosen.
Warwickshire Museum keeper of archaeology Sara Weir hopes to keep and display the hoard at Warwick Museum. She said: “The potential story behind who collected these coins and buried them is a tantalising clue to what happened here almost 2,000 years ago.”
Interesting item from the Global Arab Network:
A collection of Hellenistic coins dating back to the era of Alexander the Great were found near Najm Castle in the Manbej area in Aleppo governorate (northern Syria ).
The coins were found by a local man as he was preparing his land for construction, uncovering a bronze box that contained around 250 coins. He promptly delivered the coins to the authorities who in turn delivered them to Aleppo Department of Archaeology and Museum.
Director of archaeological excavations at Aleppo Department of Archaeology and Museum Yousef Kanjo said the box contained two groups of silver Hellenistic coins: 137 tetra drachma (four drachmas) coins and 115 drachma coins.
One side of the tetra drachma coins depicts Alexander the Great, while the other side depicts the Greek god Zeus sitting on a throne with an eagle on his outstretched right arm. 34 of these coins bear the inscription “King Alexander” in Greek, while 81 coins bear the inscription “Alexander” and 22 coins bear “King Phillip.”
The drachma coins bear the same images as the tetra drachma, with “Alexander” inscribed on 100 of them and “Philip” on 15 of them.
The story was picked up by the AP service and received quite a bit of coverage elsewhere; the Washington Post item has additional photos:
- Archaeological Findings: Hellenistic Coins Discovered in Northern Syria | Global Arab Network
- 250 Alexander the Great era coins found in Syria | Guardian
- Coins from Alexander the Great found in Syria | MSNBC
- Coins from Alexander the Great found in Syria | Washington Post
- Coins from Alexander the Great found in Syria |AP via Yahoo
Not quite sure of the ‘military’ claim here:
A hoard of 208 coins found in a Suffolk field could have belonged to a retired Roman soldier. The collection of silver denarii coins was discovered in an undisclosed area of north Suffolk last spring, an inquest heard. Greater Suffolk Coroner Peter Dean determined the find to be treasure because of the age and silver composition of the coins. Judith Plouviez, archaeological officer for the Conservation Team at Suffolk County Council, told the coroner that the coins covered a period between the 1st Century BC and the 1st Century AD of the Roman Empire. She also explained that the collection of coins spanned across a number of Roman emperors, including Nero, Vespasian, Domitianus and Claudius. Speaking after the inquest, Ms Plouviez said: “There have been a number of finds in the area due to the amount of people living and working here during that time. “Due to the wealth of coins found in such a small patch, the owner must have been someone who was relatively well-to-do. “It is very possible that the coins belonged to a retired soldier, as the Roman army was paid in silver coins. “This is why so many coins can be found scattered around.” A further inquest at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court also revealed a gold Roman finger-ring to be treasure. The ring was also found in a north Suffolk field. All of the treasure will now be put forward to the Treasure Valuation Committee, organised independently by the British Museum, where the value of each lot will be established.
A portion of this is coming to auction … nice little article (without many photos, alas):