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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.