Internship at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford

by Samuel Oer de Almeida,

Main entrance of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford

I am currently an undergraduate student of Classical Archaeology at the University of Tübingen in Germany. In August 2017, I completed an internship at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at the Heberden Coin Room in Oxford. During my two-week stay I participated in the Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire Project, which aims at collecting information about all coin hoards in the Roman Empire between 30 BC and AD 400 and making it publicly available for further studies through a digital database. The project intends to fill the major lacuna in digital coverage and documentation of ancient coin hoards.

 

Me while working on the coin hoards of Pompeii

During my internship I mainly devoted myself to the coin hoards of Pompeii, which are of particular significance since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 forms a fixed terminus ante quem for the dating of these hoards. Furthermore, the good state of preservation of the city allows the investigation of the largely undisturbed archaeological contexts of the deposited coins. Pompeii therefore provides an authentic picture of the deposition behaviour of its inhabitants, which can be placed into a broader perspective, for example in comparison to the coin hoards of other Campanian cities, like Herculaneum. I completed the processing of the hoards of Pompeii regio IX and several hoards of regio VI at the level of the individual coin, and made them publicly available online through the project’s web application (for an example of a presumed coin hoard of Pompeii found in regio IX, insula 14, in an atrium of a Roman residential building, click here). In addition, I helped to review the data of over 80,000 coins of the Reka Devnia hoard from northeastern Bulgaria, as well as improving the project’s guidance for contributors.

Finally, I got the possibility to attend a lecture of this year’s holder of the Kraay Travel Scholarship of the Heberden Coin Room, Dr Jack Nurpetlian of the American University of Beirut, about a die study of Caracalla’s Emesene tetradrachms.

I would like to thank the Royal Numismatic Society, which made my internship at the Ashmolean Museum possible by a grant of the Classical Numismatic Group Roman and Byzantine Fund, Professor Christopher Howgego and Dr Stefan Krmnicek for giving me the opportunity to work at one of the leading international coin cabinets and the academic staff at the Heberden Coin Room, especially Dr Simon Glenn, who kindly introduced me into the department and helpfully accompanied my work.

‘Something for my native town’: Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, November 9th-10th 2017

Cotton to Gold: extraordinary collections of the industrial northwest‘, exhibition held at Two Temple Place, London, September to November 2015, featuring discoveries from the Blackburn collection.

by Rebecca Darley

Museums and stately homes across the country have numismatic collections which are often not widely known about. Indeed, museum collections of all kinds can lie forgotten or unseen due to changes in funding, curatorial interests or access to specialist expertise, only to be rediscovered – a new kind of buried treasure. In recent years the Money and Medals Network has been working with numerous collections across the UK to help curators and visitors make the most of their collections. Meanwhile, numismatic collectors and scholars have always been crucial to the creation and understanding of numismatic knowledge, often providing their time voluntarily through this Society and other numismatic societies across Britain and the world, or supporting collections local to them.

The Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery has been working tirelessly over the last five years to develop its facilities and raise awareness of its collections, which include world-class holdings of early printed books and manuscripts, as well as a magnificent numismatic collection, with especially good selections of Hellenistic, Roman and Sasanian material. Some of this material was exhibited in Autumn 2015 at Two Temple Place, London. ‘Cotton to Gold: extraordinary collections of the industrial northwest‘ (see review by Claudia Prtichard, The Independent here), focussed on the way in which industrial entrepreneurs in northern England often used their resources to build eclectic and fabulous collections of art and antiquities. These were then frequently left to their local town and city museums.

Building on this exhibition, the Institute of English Studies and Birkbeck, University of London, together with the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, and the University Centre at Blackburn College are pleased to announce an international conference on the R.E. Hart Collections at the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery. ‘Something for my native town’ will take place on 9th and 10th November 2017. Beginning on Thursday 9th November from 4pm to 6pm at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery there will be the official opening of the new Level 2 Collections Research Room and a chance to view manuscripts and coins from the Hart Collection with the museum Curators. On Friday 10th November there will be a Full day conference at University Centre at Blackburn College with a plenary lecture by Professor David McKitterick. Full programme to be confirmed.

More information about this exciting event and the opportunity to register to attend can be found here.

Conference Oltre “Roma medio repubblicana”: il Lazio fra i Galli e Zama

Report on funds received from the Classical Numismatic Group Roman and Byzantine Fund

by Marleen Termeer

A Royal Numismatic Society grant enabled me to give a lecture on coinage production in Latium and the Latin colonies in the Middle Republic at the conference Oltre “Roma medio repubblicana”: il Lazio fra i Galli e Zama in Rome (Rome, 7-9 June 2017).

This important conference was organized, together with its counterpart on Mid-Republican Rome (5-7 April 2017), with the aim of bringing together a variety of sources and perspectives on the city of Rome and the Latin world from the beginning of the fourth to the end of the third centuries BC (more information available here). My lecture was one of two to focus on the numismatic material. I discussed the significance and the potential of the coinages of Latin colonies in Latium and beyond as a source for understanding the relation between Rome and the colonies. In addition, I was able to introduce the topic of a postdoctoral research project that I am currently preparing. This project will investigate the first (pre-denarius) Roman coins and contemporary Italic and Greek productions in relation to Roman state formation. It challenges the assumption of a strict relation between coin production and state authority in the Mid Republic, and instead develops and investigates the hypothesis that different actors produced coinages that were functional to, and sometimes even representative of, the Roman state.

My participation in this conference allowed me to make new contacts and get some important feedback, both on the general purposes of my research project and on specific source material and publications that are important in this context. In addition, it allowed me to develop a broader perspective on the coinages that I study, as many other contributors to the conference addressed similar themes, but based on other textual and material sources. Finally, I hope to have been able to communicate the importance of the numismatic material to address the broad theme of the developing relations between Rome and Italy in the Mid Republican period to an audience of ancient historians and archaeologists.

Key references

Burnett, A.M. 2012, Early Roman coinage and its Italian context. In The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford U.P.

Burnett, A.M. & M.H. Crawford 2014, Coinage, Money and Mid-Republican Rome: Reflections on a recent book by Filippo Coarelli. Annali. Istituto italiano di numismatica 60, 231-265

Burnett, A.M. & M.C. Molinari 2015, The Capitoline Hoard and the Circulation of Silver Coins in Central and Northern Italy in the Third Century BC. In P.G. van Alfen, G. Bransbourg and M. Amandry (eds.) FIDES: Contributions to Numismatics in Honor of Richard B. Witschonke. New York: the American Numismatic Society, 21-119.

Cantilena, R. 2000, Nomen Latinum: la monetazione. Appunti per una discussione. In Gentes fortissimae Italiae. I Convegno sui Popoli dell’Italia antica. Atina: Centro di studi storici Saturnia, 41-56.

Coarelli, F. 2013, Argentum signatum. Le origini della moneta d’argento a Roma. Rome: Istituto italiano di numismatica

Rutter, N. K. (ed.), 2001, Historia numorum. Italy. London: British Museum Press.

Termeer, M.K. 2016, Roman colonial coinages beyond the city-state: a view from the Samnite world. Journal of Ancient History 4(2), 159-190

Summer School on Greek and Roman Numismatics – National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens

Martin Hallmannsecker 

Thanks to the general support of the Royal Numismatics Society, I was able to attend the summer school on Greek and Roman numismatics organised by the National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens from 3-12 July 2017.

The summer school was aimed at students of all stages with basic to no knowledge of numismatics and provided lectures on general topics (e.g. the invention of coinage, metrology, hoards, iconography) as well as on more specific matters (e.g. Archaic and Classical coins, Athenian coinage, Hellenistic coins, Roman and Roman Provincial coinage, online databases). In addition to that, we visited the most relevant numismatic collections of Athens (Numismatic Museum, KIKPE collection at the Benaki Museum, Alpha Bank collection, Akropolis Museum) where we were able to handle and even strike our own (plasticine) coins. Very helpful for the understanding of the production process of coins and the workings of Athenian economy was a field trip to the silver mines of Laurion which are usually closed to the public.

 

Especially the chapter of my DPhil thesis which is based on a reinterpretation of a series of bronze coins from the Antonine period will benefit greatly from what I have learned on this course. Now I feel more confident to put my findings into a larger context and am even considering to conduct a die study. I would definitely recommend this summer school to every student in ancient history who wants to get a comprehensive overview of the field of Greek and Roman numismatics.

Using the RNS ‘Notices’ blog

by Rebecca Darley

As you may have noticed, the RNS now has a blog. With new posts going up every two weeks (on a Sunday night), the ‘Notices’ section of the RNS website provides a space to promote events and publications, share news about numismatic discoveries and projects and celebrate the work of the RNS in the form of posts contributed by recipients of our grants. In the last month these notices have received 47,726 views, representing over 2,500 individuals visiting the site. this number is growing as we continue to work on the website and publish new notices. So, if you feel that an up-coming or completed project, recent publication, or event that you are organising could benefit from several thousand views per month from interested numismatists, or you have a discovery or numismatic story you would like to share, please consider writing a post for our ‘Notices’ section. Submissions should be between 250 and 1200 words (submitted as a Word file), with at least one image related to the text (jpeg, tif, gif) and can be sent to Rebecca Darley at r.darley@bbk.ac.uk. Some editing may be necessary to conform to the house style of the blog, but this will be light and you will consulted if it alters your content or meaning in any significant way. All formatting and links can be done for you. If you have never written a blog post before, if the list of specifications above sound mystifying or off-putting but if you still feel like there is something which you would like to appear in ‘Notices’, please just drop me an email (r.darley@bbk.ac.uk) describing your idea and I will be happy to provide an IT or editorial support necessary.

 

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.

RNS funds contribute to work on Central Asian numismatics

Post by Jens Jakobsson

Numismatists gathered for the conference at the University of Reading, April 2016.

The RNS kindly granted me funds from the Neil Kreitman Central Asian Numismatic Endowment last year to participate in the Hellenistic Central Asia Research Network‘s conference on Central Asia at Reading University, 15-17 April, 2016, arranged by Dr. Rachel Mairs. I gave a speech about evidence for the later dating (“low chronology”) of Bactria’s independence, based on my research on the coinage of the Diodotid kings and overlooked sources. Several Bactrian numismatists contributed and we established valuable contacts. A paper based on my speech will hopefully be published next year. In the meantime, the following tentative chronology was suggested by my paper:

* Antiochos II 261-246 BC 

(posthumous coins of Antiochos I

issued in Bactria until at least 255 BC).

* Diodotos I c.245-238 BC

* Diodotos II c.238-230 BC

* Antiochos Nikator c.230-222 BC

* Euthydemos I c.222-190 BC

Internship at the Ashmolean made possible by RNS funds

Marco Werkmann at the Ashmolean. Photograph linked from the Facebook page of the Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire project.

Report on an RNS grant by Marco Werkmann

I felt honoured and was grateful for being awarded with the grant I applied for from The Classical Numismatic Group Roman and Byzantine Fund administered by the Royal Numismatic Society. This grant made it possible for me to come to Oxford for an internship at the Ashmolean Museum from July 4th to 15th in 2016. I am an undergraduate student of classical archaeology and ancient Greek at the University of Tübingen, Germany, where I was taking classes on numismatics with Dr. Stefan Krmnicek.

I was invited to work with Dr. Philippa Walton from the Heberden Coin Room at the Ashmolean Museum on a project called ‘Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire’. I was therefore entering data in the online database by using the volumes of Die Fundmünzen der römischen Zeit in Ungarn, as I focused on coin hoards from modern day Hungary. After I entered the data, I had time to think about what we can already conclude already and whether the data is, as yet, representative or not. I also joined Dr. Lyce Jankowski in the Research Laboratory for Archaeology & the History of Art to find out how archaeology makes use of scientific research by analysing the metal contents of Korean coins. In addition, I had the chance to work with small metal objects found in the river Tees in Piecebridge, northern England. I measured, identified and later took photos of these objects, mostly studs, brooches, rings and harness but also Roman coins. Later, I edited the photos I took. I also gained insight into administrative processes and daily routines in the Ashmolean Museum by joining Dr. Philippa Walton in attending a few events. We attended the monthly identification service of archaeological objects found by members of the public and brought to the museum as part of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. In addition, I participated in the Museum Forum, where museum staff talk about what is going on in the museum and how to develop and improve working links between different departments. Finally, I attended the Stanley Robinson Trust lecture, held by members of the Robinson family.

To finance my internship I applied for a grant from the Royal Numismatic Society and with the grant I received I was able to pay for my journey from Tübingen to Oxford and back, as well as meeting the costs of accommodation and living expenses in Oxford for the two weeks I stayed there.

I am very thankful for the grant I was awarded with. Otherwise it would have not been possible for me to enjoy my internship in Oxford as much as I did!

New RNS Special Publication – SP 54

Susan Tyler-Smith The Coinage Reforms (600-603) of Khusru II and the Revolt of Vistahm. Royal Numismatic Society Special Publication no. 54. London, 2017.pp. xxiv, 292 including 52 plates; also maps, tables and illustrations in text. ISBN 0 901 405 89 2. RRP £65, Fellows (1 copy) £48.75, Fellows (more than one copy) £43.33 (for pre-order form please click here).

One of the most intriguing literary passages relating to Sasanian coins is in al-Tabari’s, famous History. A number of questions about his ‘evil conduct’ are put to the former king of kings, Khusru II, shortly after his overthrow in 628. One concerns Khusru’s methods of tax gathering and his harsh treatment of his subjects. Khusru’s reply is important to numismatists as it contains the comment that he ordered ‘the engraving of new dies for coins, so that we might give our orders for beginning the minting of new silver [drachms] with them’. Khusru adds that he gave this order ‘at the end of year thirteen [602/3] of our reign’. The meaning of this passage and the remarkable coinage reforms of the early seventh century are explored in depth.

Khusru II’s long reign and the numerous mints operating under him ensure that his drachms are the commonest in the Sasanian series. Over 90% of the enormous ‘Shiraz’ or ‘Year 12’ hoard was probably formed of Khusru’s coins dating between 591 and 602. A parcel of 562 coins from this hoard forms the springboard for the current study. This establishes the precise sequence of the types, the date of the introduction of the enigmatic apd legend and discusses the subsequent hoarding of Khusru’s coins. The latest mint attributions are discussed.

By contrast the coinage of Khusru’s contemporary and rival, the usurper Vistahm, is scarce. Its numerous varieties, from two mints, contrast with Khusru’s centralised minting system which produced a highly standardised, tightly controlled, coinage. Vistahm’s coins are the subject of a special study with all the known dies illustrated.

The RNS now has a blog!

Through this blog, we aim to publicise the wide-ranging research that we fund through our grants each year, as well as upcoming events, new RNS publications and other stories of interest to the numismatic community. If you would like to write a post about numismatics-related research, work or any events, please write to: Dr Rebecca Darley – r.darley@bbk.ac.uk.

RNS grants are available to Fellows and non-Fellows alike and recipients of grants are asked as part of their award to write a short entry about their project for this blog, so watch this space for updates and summaries of past and on-going projects.

An overview of the grants which we administer is below. For more information, including application details, please click on the links to each page.

  1. Martin Price Fund for Ancient Greek Numismatics

This fund was set up as a permanent memorial to Martin Price, who was a Fellow, Secretary and Medallist of the Society, Curator of Greek Coins at the British Museum (1966-94) and Director of the British School of Athens (1994-95).

Since1997, the Society has made annual awards from the Fund to promote the study of the coins of the Greek world in its broadest sense, with a special focus on young researchers. The awards will normally be one or more grants towards research costs, including travel and accommodation (where payable), to enable the successful applicant(s) to study some aspect of Greek numismatics. It is also available to provide support for attending and reading a paper at colloquia and seminars.

Applicant may be of any nationality and live anywhere in the world. There is no age limit, but some preference may be given to candidates under the age of 30 on the closing date for applications.

  1. The Nicholas Lowick Memorial Fund for the promotion of Oriental Numismatic Research

This fund was set up by The Royal Numismatic Society as a permanent memorial to its former Fellow and Officer, Nicholas Lowick, Curator of Oriental Coins in the British Museum (1962-86). Since 1988 the Society has made annual awards from the Fund to promote the study of Oriental numismatics.

Annual awards from the Fund will be one or more grants towards travel and accommodation costs to enable the successful applicant(s) to study some aspect of Oriental numismatics.

  1. The Neil Kreitman Central Asian Numismatic Endowment

Thanks to the generosity of Mr Neil Kreitman, The Royal Numismatic Society is able to make awards from this fund to promote research in the study of coins of ancient Central Asia. Grants are made at the discretion of Council from the interest accrued from the capital fund of £25,000 endowed by the Neil Kreitman Foundation.

  1. The Classical Numismatic Group Roman and Byzantine Fund

This Fund was established in 2009 with the aid of a generous donation from Classical Numismatic Group Inc. of Pennsylvania USA. The purpose of the Fund is to promote for the public benefit the study of Roman and Byzantine numismatics in its broadest sense.

  1. The RNS Marshall Memorial Fund

This fund was established by the Society in 1945 in memory of Mr W.S. Marshall, who had left his collection to the Society with the request that the interest on the proceeds of sale be used to help young collectors.

Council makes awards form this fund from time to time for educational purposes. This is usually in the form of assistance for young scholars to purchase books, for themselves or their institutions, where the cost would otherwise be prohibitive.

Donations to these funds are welcome and those interested in making a donation to the society, or endowing a new fund, should in the first instance contact: SJansari@britishmuseum.org.

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