2007 Graduate Seminar

by Rick Witschonke

Photography by Alan Roche

L to R: Noah Kaye, Eleonora Giampiccolo, Chris Cloke, Clare Rowan, Tom Landvatter, Lyra Monteiro, Richard Buxton, Trinity Jackman, Yoav Fahri

Friday, July 27 was a busy day at the ANS as the last of this summer’s nine budding numismatic scholars presented the fruits of their eight weeks of study, wrapping up a very successful 54th Eric P. Newman Graduate Summer Seminar in Numismatics. The Seminar had begun on June 4 with a welcome to the ANS (and, for most of the students, to New York), and proceeded through a series of forty-four lectures on the many facets of numismatics given by ANS staff and visiting speakers. These guest lecturers included William Metcalf (former ANS Chief Curator, now at Yale) on Roman Imperial coinage; Ben Damsky on an aureus of Trajan; Stephen Scher on the portrait medal; Paul Keyser on metalurgical analysis of coins; Elizabeth Jones (former U.S. Mint Chief Engraver) on her experiences in that capacity; Jane Evans of Temple University, on excavation coins; and Liv Yarrow of CUNY Brooklyn, on Roman Republican issues. We also enjoyed lectures by Roger Bland of the British Museum, on the UK Portable Antiquities Scheme, and Shailendra Bhandare of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, on South Asian coinage. This year’s Visiting Scholar, Bernhard Weisser, of the Berlin Staatliche Museen, spoke several times on Roman Imperial and Provincial coinages, and Co-Directors Peter van Alfen and Rick Witschonke gave many of the core lectures. The lecture program was rounded out by excellent talks by each of the ANS Curators in their areas of expertise.

L to R: Rick Witschonke, Peter van Alfen, Bernhard Weisser, Andy Meadows

But the Seminar is not just a series of lectures. One popular feature is the “Mystery Coin Exercise,” where each student is presented with an image of a coin in the ANS trays and given a week to identify the coin and prepare a brief report on it. Another ever-popular event is a numismatic walking tour of lower Manhattan, narrated by Peter van Alfen. You would be surprised at how many buildings incorporate coins into their decoration. In addition, each student selects a research topic and spends much of their time using the ANS trays, library, and photo file to prepare a presentation and paper on their chosen topic. Students are typically working on their doctorate in fields such as classics, archeology, art history, and ancient history. This year, from a very competitive field, we selected six American students, plus one each from Italy, Israel, and Australia.

Clare Rowan is working on her doctoral dissertation on the religious policies of the Severan Emperors at Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia. She has been a Junior Fellow and Research Officer for the Australian Center for Ancient Numismatic Studies, and plans a career in academia or as a museum curator. During the Seminar she studied the coinage of Severus Alexander, and clearly found her experience valuable: “What really struck me about the Seminar was the amount of time the staff had for the students—any questions or help needed at any time was available, which really made work a lot easier. The Seminar dealt with a wide variety of topics and some topics in depth, which meant that though I had some numismatic experience, I learnt an enormous amount that will benefit my doctoral thesis and my future career. The access to the vault and the coin collection was invaluable; I think it would be very difficult to have such a hands-on experience with such a diverse range of coinage anywhere else. The series of guest lectures also meant that we were able to access a diverse range of topics and opinions.”

Richard Buxton is a classics major at the University of Washington, studying Greek tragedy. His undergraduate degree is from Vassar, and he has spent some time at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. For the Seminar, he studied a fifth-century BC hoard of Athenian owls from the Near East. He comments that “one of the most valuable opportunities I had while at the ANS was to have the chance to read scholarship by leading numismatists working on my time period whose acute observations derived from their specialized evidence would otherwise have escaped my attention. In particular, while doing background research for my project on fifth-century Athenian coinage I had the pleasure of reading T. Buttrey’s two articles on the Athenian silver coinage law, where the author gives a virtuoso demonstration of how specialized numismatic knowledge can be combined with a broader understanding of classics to produce intriguing and valuable insights of importance for a broad range of specialists. Concretely, he showed how even a brilliant epigrapher like Ron Stroud could completely miss the point of an Athenian law because he hadn’t fully appreciated basic aspects of the behavior of coinage and the correlative force of the men and de particles in the Greek text. The articles were an inspiring reminder that great scholarship comes in judiciously combining the specialized and the too easily forgotten obvious, and in doing so making one fully appreciate the broader importance of subfields like numismatics.”

Chris Cloke is a Ph.D. candidate in archeology at the University of Cincinnati who also holds degrees in archeology from Brown and Cambridge. He has a particular interest in ancient Petra and has written a book on its water system. During the Seminar he worked on the Cistophori of Augustus, and clearly benefited from the experience: “The ANS Seminar was an excellent use of my time this summer—I learned an immense amount about a wide variety of coinage and was put on the right path for thinking about some of the big issues in numismatics, such as why coinage was developed in the first place, why it has continued, what forms it has taken, and why its study is meaningful and important. Before the Seminar I’d had some firsthand experience with coins on excavations and in museums, but the ANS Seminar has focused my thinking about numismatics, taught me to ask a wide variety of questions about coins, and encouraged me to apply numerous strategies in evaluating and studying them. I now feel well-prepared to approach an array of numismatic problems and data sets and hope to use the skills and knowledge I’ve honed at the ANS in future numismatic research. The Seminar was extremely well-run, and the students benefited equally from the staff’s expertise, enthusiasm, and availability. I plan to recommend this seminar to other students in my graduate department!”

Eleonora Giampiccolo is pursuing a doctorate in Greek and Latin philology at the University of Catania in Sicily. She had worked previously at the ANS as an Assistant Archivist, and spent her time at the Seminar studying Greek monetary circulation patterns in ancient Sicily by looking at the coin hoards. She found the Seminar to be “one of the finest experiences of all my life. Since the first day the Seminar made me curious about coins, especially the Greek and Roman ones. Numismatics is not so far from my field of study. I often found similarities between the language of the coins and the language of my written texts. Especially during some lectures I discovered that ancient literature and ancient numismatics have the same language, the language of the people they want to talk about to us. Naturally my favorite lectures were those on Roman, Greek, and Byzantine coins. One activity I remember with a lot of pleasure was the roundtable discussion on legal and ethical issues in numismatics, because six different countries met around the same table to talk about the problem of illegal importation of archeological material. I think we were lucky to have very good teachers, a fantastic coin vault, and a very nice library available for our research projects. The Seminar was helpful because we could associate the theory to the practice, and this is not a thing to undervalue.”

Lyra Monteiro is studying for her Ph.D. at the Joukowsky Institute at Brown. She has also studied at the University of Michigan and NYU, and has a particular interest in Roman Spain. For her Seminar project, she studied images of slavery on banknotes in the ANS collection. As she says: “My Summer Seminar experience has been fantastic, overall. I especially appreciated the flexibility of the ANS in accommodating and even encouraging my shifting interests. When I originally applied to the program, I planned to analyze the third- to first-century BCE coins of the Phoenician cities of southern Spain, in connection with my broader interest in culture change during this period. However, during my first day of exploring in the ANS vault, I was captivated by the wealth of slavery imagery on pre-Civil War banknotes from the South and on Confederate issues during the war. The challenge of studying these notes, which have received very little previous study, felt possible thanks to the time and resources available to me as a Seminar student. I was able to scan images of all notes with images of slaves represented in the ANS collection and to catalog additional notes from other collections. My database has already revealed interesting patterns in the creation, use, and distribution of these images, contradicting previously held ideas. In particular, it shows overwhelmingly that the imagery of slavery was in fact created in the North, by engravers in New York and Philadelphia, who were the first to develop the images that were later used by banks throughout the South. Aside from access to the coin vault, the most valuable aspects of the Seminar were the lectures at the beginning. The topics were varied and interesting, and the guests were knowledgeable and generally even great speakers! They provided an excellent introduction to various aspects of numismatic research. I also enjoyed the mystery coin exercises which we did at the beginning to familiarize ourselves with the vault, and with numismatic reference tools.”

Noah Kaye is presently a Ph.D. candidate in ancient history at U.C. Berkeley, and he holds undergraduate degrees from Princeton and Cambridge. He has a particular interest in the Hellenistic period, and at the ANS he completed a die study of the tetradrachms of Prusias II of Bithynia. He found that “the seminar provided me with a broad familiarity with coins and numismatic practice and method. We were treated to a whirlwind tour of the history of coinage that was nevertheless anything but superficial. I came to the seminar with only an outsider’s knowledge of the field; I knew some of the basics. But those earlier classroom lessons were not only reinforced and elaborated at the ANS, they were also brought to life by the hands-on experience in the seminar room and in the coin cabinet. I took on the task of a die study, one of Prusias II, a second-century BCE king of Hellenistic Bithynia. The ANS Seminar provided me with a unique opportunity to launch such a project. I hope to return soon, to continue working on the silver and the interesting bronze coinage of Prusias II, and to visit great friends.”

Trinity Jackman holds a Ph.D. in classical archeology and ancient history from Stanford, and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia’s Society of Fellows in the Humanities. Her primary interests lie in Archaic and Classical Greek history, and during the Seminar she worked on the coinage and economics of southern Italy in the late Archaic period. She found that “the ANS summer session provided a unique opportunity to rapidly gain the methodological tools and general knowledge to undertake scholarly research in numismatics. The excellent library, the helpful and knowledgeable curators, as well as direct contact with the coins greatly facilitated my research. I would recommend the summer program to any ancient historian or archaeologist: the wealth of information that coins can provide was truly eye-opening!”

Yoav Farhi is working on a Ph.D. in numismatics at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is also a field archeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Service, and has published ten articles, mainly on numismatic topics. During the Seminar he worked on the Society’s coins of Gaza and Syria-Palestina. Yoav found that his “time at the ANS was not only informative, but a great deal of fun. The curators and staff—Elena, Sylvia, Bob, Andy, Sebastian, Alan, and Ben—were always willing to help at any time. I was especially impressed by the remarkable collections in the library and the vault. It is surely the dream of every numismatist to have access to these and I am pleased and honored to be the first Israeli student to take part in the program. I owe my special thanks to Peter and Rick for inviting me to the program and sharing their knowledge with me and to the entire staff, especially Müserref and Frank, for their assistance with my research. My fantasy was to get locked into the library for the weekend. It never happened… perhaps the next time I visit. I also wish to thank my classmates and Bernard Weisser, who were great about helping me to formulate and refine ideas. My classmates were as great in the ANS as they were outside the classroom and I appreciated the opportunities to interact with them in various environments.”

Tom Landvatter is in the doctoral program at the University of Michigan, where he is studying Greco-Roman Egypt and the Near East. His undergraduate work was done at Penn State, and at the ANS he worked on a die study of the Isis and Sarapis coinage of Ptolemy IV of Egypt. His impressions of the Seminar: “As a student of archaeology, I really only considered coins useful in two ways: dating and iconography. This seminar, however, has greatly expanded my knowledge of the discipline of numismatics, beyond something which—to many in ancient studies—exists as an area of study solely unto itself. Particularly this applies to the tracing of political and economic relationships between cities, as well as their administrative practices. Though my interests were within traditional Greek and Roman coinage, I greatly appreciated that I received exposure to the entirety of numismatic history, finding Islamic and Indian coinage most fascinating. Of course, the experience was made all the better by the staff, who were constantly available and helpful—and were good enough to have a few beers with the students. This seminar stands out most of all, perhaps, as one of the few places where a student has near unrestricted access to a world-class coin collection—a rarity among collections of ANY type of antiquities.”