Making Fake Roman Coins in 1st Century India (!)

Very interesting item from the Deccan Herald:

For those who think financial fraud or circulating fake currencies is a modern day phenomenon, an ancient Roman coin mould on display at the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage in the city is a startling revelation.

The Roman coin mould, which is being displayed for the first time since its excavation in 1993, indicates that fake coins were in circulation around 19 to 20 centuries ago. The terracotta mould is among the most important objects displayed at the exhibition, apart from terracotta figurines, iron objects, bronze dies, stone beads.

M S Krishnamurthy, a retired professor of Archaeology who led the team that unearthed the mould, told Deccan Herald that it was a mould for Roman coins in circulation during the first century AD. “The coins probably were minted either during the period of Augustus or his son Tiberius,” he said.

“In the area where we spotted the mould, a foundry with a crucible was also found. Considering this, it is possible that a person living in Talkad was minting duplicate coins of Romans,” he said. He added that it was one of the rare and unique moulds excavated in the State.

Archaelogist Gowda N L said that the mould contained an inscription of Greek goddess Livia with words, ‘Maxim Pontis’.

“The coins with the same inscriptions were in circulation around the country. Roman coins belonging to the first century AD have been found in various excavation sites around the country. However, such a terracotta mould has never been found elsewhere.”

He added that the coins might have been minted at Talkad and circulated around the country. “It is possible that the value of Roman currency was more in India during the period, which might have led a few individuals at Talkad to indulge in minting fake coins,” he added.

Talkad, of course, is in India … so already in/around the time of Augustus we’re getting fake Roman coins abroad. Anyone know anything more about this find (was it ever published in English? Identifying Livia as a “Greek goddess” doesn’t really lend confidence to this)? The original article is accompanied by a grotty little photo which doesn’t really give you an idea of the coin …

Roman Hoard from near Kalingrad

From the Voice of Russia:

Archeologists from the Sambian expedition of the Russian Institute of Archeology have found a unique collection of Roman coins dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD in the Kaliningrad region, Interfax reports.

The Kaliningrad Regional Historical and Arts Museum told Interfax that the discovered treasure has already been handed over to the museum.

The find consists of over 100 Roman bronze sestertii bearing the portraits of emperors from the Nerva-Antonine dynasty: from Trajan, famous for his vast conquests, to the eccentric Commodus whose accession to the throne in 180 AD marked the end of the era of “the five kind emperors.”

The majority of coins were minted during the reign of Marcus Aurelius often referred to as “the philosopher on the throne.” His rule is considered the golden period in the ancient historical tradition.

According to historians, this unique numismatic collection narrates the most interesting period in the history of the Roman Empire.

[…]

Historians claim that the treasure buried in the ground is quite valuable and worth approximately one-third of the annual pay of a Roman legionnaire.

Archaeologists say that the origin of the Roman coin collection found in the Zelenogradsky district remains a mystery.

It might have been hidden by a merchant in the late 2nd – early 3rd centuries. At the time Roman sestertii were used as a medium of exchange for Baltic amber.

According to another theoy, they were offerings to local gods.

The Kaliningrad museum is planning to exhibit the collection in the very near future.

via Rare ancient Roman coins found near Kaliningrad. (Voice of Russia)

Also Seen: Real Roman Women on Coins

Interesting feature over at Coin Week … here are the first couple of paragraphs as a bit of a tease:

Much like Americans, Republican Romans had a deep-rooted prejudice against depicting living people on their money. It was something that pretentious Greek kings and tyrants did. When Julius Caesar violated this taboo, his assassins claimed that he was trying to make himself a king. And yet, within a few years, Brutus struck his own portrait on coins to pay his army – the famous “Ides of March” denarius.

The civil wars that tore the Republic apart (49-30 BCE) saw dramatic social change, including changes in gender roles. Female figures had appeared on Roman coinage for centuries, but these were goddesses, personifications, or legendary figures like the Vestal Virgin Tarpeia, who appeared on a denarius in 89 BCE. […]

Follow Up: Antony and Cleopatra Coin from Bethsaida

A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned a report about a nice Antony and Cleopatra coin which had been found at Bethsaida last year (Antony + Cleopatra Coin from Bethsaida!). The article wasn’t accompanied by a photo, but the ‘official photographer’, Hanan Shafir kindly did send one to me with permission to post it:

Photo by Hanan Shafir

Photo by Hanan Shafir

We stress that the coin was found last year, as the photographer confirms, and not this year, as stated in Simcha Jacobovici’s coverage of the find which includes the same photo (Ancient Lovers’ Coin).

Coin Hoards of the Roman Republic Online

This one’s been hitting all my social media sources and a few lists as well … here’s a description from the page:

Coin hoards of the Roman Republic Online (CHRR Online) is a database of Roman Republican coin hoards mainly from the period 155 BC to AD 2. This database began life as a personal research database constructed by Kris Lockyear using a combination of published data and Michael Crawford’s personal archive now housed in the British Museum. The online database, which utilises the Numishare application developed by Ethan Gruber, is a joint project between Kris Lockyear (Institute of Archaeology, University College London) and the American Numismatic Society. Project coordination provided by Rick Witschonke of the ANS. […]

Check it out: Coin hoards of the Roman Republic Online

Roman Republic Numismatic Database Project

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.

Bulgarian Coin Hoard

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)

Some Online Projects of Interest to Classicists

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:

Computed Tomography and Roman Coins (mostly)

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!).

testing blogsy

Just seeing if this might be an alternative platform when I'm away from my laptop …

BBC News – Gold and silver traces 'may be in Jersey coin hoard'

… 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.

'Exciting discoveries'

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.