Contributions to the Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum, assisted by RNS funds

Report by F. Sinsi

Silver coin of Phraates IV, minted in Parthia. British Museum collection. Image used from the British Museum SNP project page.

The grant from the Nicholas Lowick Memorial Fund awarded by the Royal Numismatic Society allowed me to spend the period 5th-11th February 2017 in London, working at the Department of Coins and Medals of the British Museum from Monday 6th to Friday 10th for the international project Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum (SNP), co-directed by M. Alram and V.S. Curtis.

In this week I had the chance to examine the Parthian coins held by the BM that will be included in volume 5 of SNP (Phraates IV-Orodes III), on which I am currently working.

The other important task of this week was, however, to coordinate with the British Museum team of the SNP (V.S. Curtis, E. Pendleton, A. Magub). This team is now working on Vol. 2 (Mithradates II). The SNP aims at a full structural reconstruction of the Parthian coinage. It was accordingly crucial to harmonise the approaches of the different groups working in the framework of the project, exploiting the experience accumulated in the preparation of Vol. 7, which I published in 2012.

In particular, the joint work with the British Museum branch of the SNP has focused on how to define the typological features at the various levels of classification, and how to present them in the reconstruction. This also requires grappling with methodological questions of scale. For example, it had to take into account the specific problems in the analysis of a coinage such as that of Mithradates II, which was produced on an enormous scale: the quantitative basis for SNP 2 is between four and five times larger than that available for SNP 7. 

The main focus of the study has been on the analysis of drachm production, which is the most challenging. The two main phases and the relevant sub-periods defined by the work so far done by the British Museum SNP team have been examined and discussed in detail. A test version of the structural reconstruction has been elaborated for the first phase of production of Mithradates’ drachms (divided into two further sub-periods), which will provide a reference pattern in order to deal with the successive stages of production. Some of the links have already been detected, such as the employment of obverse monograms across the last period of the first phase and the beginning of the second phase. A range of control marks on the reverse has been analyzed, detecting a recurring two-fold pattern, in all likelihood to be connected to the production of the working stations within each mint.

It is expected that the results of the study of the materials covered in SNP 2 may be the object of further joint work between the London and the Viennese branches of the SNP prior to publication.