Category Archives: Digital

Developments and Preliminary Data Release for the Roman Republican Die Project

Lucia Carbone and Liv M. Yarrow

The following post is a precursor to a Long Table discussion scheduled for Friday, July 16, 1 pm. Please join us then for an open Q&A following the presentation. If you are unable to do so, please feel free to send along any questions or comments to Lucia Carbone and Liv Mariah Yarrow. 

Nearly three decades ago Richard Schaefer began collecting images of Roman Republican coins and organizing these images by one die, either obverse or reverse based on which was most distinctive for each type (Figs. 1 and 2).

Figure 1. An image of some of the drawers in Schaefer’s office, containing pre-processed clippings of specimen images.
Figure 2. Digitized pre-processed clippings on Archer (this specimen RRC 348/5).

In Summer 2020 the ANS released all the digitized images through its online archives (Archer) and connected relevant pages to the types in Coinage of the Roman Republic Online (CRRO).  You can read about the process of digitization and the background to the project in our September 2019 ANS Magazine article, “Opening Access to Roman Republican Dies”. To learn more about the materials on Archer and how to navigate them, see these earlier blog posts. For those interested in the possible research applications of RRDP, especially concerning quantification of coin production, we published an article in RBN 2020, where the data from RRDP were put in the context of the aftermath of the First Mithridatic War (89–85 BCE), in order to show the correlation between monetary production in the provinces of the Roman Empire and the Roman Republican one.

In November 2020 the ANS received a grant for a two-year pilot project to build a database capable of reflecting Schaefer’s die analyses and enabling that work to be expanded in future by both Schaefer and the RRDP team.  The present phase is focusing on the die transcription of Crawford types 336–392 (92–75 BCE).

The reason for prioritizing these decades lies in the fact that in these years Rome found herself battling at the same time with her Italian allies (socii)—the backbone of her fighting force for her conquest and control of the Mediterranean—and with the formidable king of Pontus, Mithridates VI. While Rome’s war with the socii threatened Rome’s own existence in the Italian peninsula, the war against Mithridates promised to annihilate the Roman conquests in the East. These are also the years when historical figures of the caliber of Marius, Sulla, and Pompey rose to prominence. In spite of the crucial importance of this historical period, no contemporary, continuous narrative of this period survives as a whole. Being able to quantify the coinage for this period would provide new historical insights into the funding of different military and domestic projects and allow for a comparison of relative expenditure based on threat or need.

Within this period, we are prioritizing the transcription of a part of Schaefer’s Archive known as ODEC: One Die for Each Control Mark (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. An example of ODEC issue: RRC 378/1c. (ANS 1941.131.177)

As the name suggests, ODEC issues have a specific correspondence between dies and control marks. Usually there is a univocal correspondence between obverse and reverse dies for each of these control marks. Early on, Schaefer realized the value of these types for understanding the coin production processes used at the Roman mint and also for testing and improving statistical models for estimating the original number of dies used to strike an issue.

The funding first enabled Ethan Gruber, the ANS Director of Data Science, to adapt Numishare software to create both a die database and specimen database for coins known only from images, rather than those in collections already connected to nomisma.org and thus represented in CRRO. He then connected the die database (RRDP) and the specimen database (SITNAM) to CRRO.  For most users these new developments are best seen as extensions of CRRO itself: under each type you will see a total of 5,000 more specimens and also information about known dies. How CRRO displays this still being developed (Figs. 4–6).

Figure 4. SITNAM specimens enhancing the number of specimens already in CRRO (these specimens RRC 378/1b).
Figure 5. One specimen of RRC 378/1b as displayed on SITNAM.
Figure 6. Die analysis integrated in CRRO (this specimen RRC 378/1b).

Gruber also adapted an existing, open-source tool, SimpleAnnotationServer, for the RRDP team to work simultaneously on transcribing different parts of Schaefer’s archive and annotating images in Archer (Fig. 7).

Figure 7. A page of Schaefer’s clippings as seen in Mirador, the annotation tool that connect the images on Archer, SITNAM, RRDP, and CRRO.

Thanks to Gruber’s innovation, the RRDP team is gradually understanding the challenges of the material and how to make the transcription process as smooth and as accurate as possible.  What we are sharing now is the results of this early learning process. 

These preliminary technical tools have enabled us to begin the laborious transcription process. This release includes the following Crawford types:

342/1

342/2

342/3a

342/3b

342/6a

342/6b

362/1

378/1a

378/1b

378/1c

380/1

While we aimed to accurately reflect Schaefer’s analyses for all these issues, we also know that the very process of making them available is likely to generate feedback for improvement.  Throughout the transcription process we have regularly consulted Schaefer on his notations and where we had questions regarding his analyses, but mistakes are inevitable and regular updates are a key goal of the RRDP project.  In this we take our lead from Schaefer himself who always welcomes new observations to revise and improve the quality of the die analyses.

Many individuals have been involved thus far on the transcription project, but perhaps the most important team member is Alice Sharpless. Sharpless is currently employed part-time on RRDP, but will work full time from October onwards following the defense of her PhD thesis, “The Value of Luxury: Precious Metal Tableware in the Roman Empire.”  Sharpless brings to the team a wealth of experience digitizing the finds from the excavations at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, as well as her on-going work cataloguing the imperial coins in Columbia Library’s Olcott Collection in advance of the collection’s digital publication.

We are also indebted to a number of volunteers including Miriam Bernstein, a class of 2021 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brooklyn College (dual major in Classics and Religion). Bernstein’s work on RRDP was initially funded by a Kurz Undergraduate Research Assistantship, but even after completing this initial commitment, Bernstein has continued to work in a voluntary capacity.  She’ll be leaving the project in autumn to begin a year in the AmeriCorps’ Literacy Program in Palm Beach, Florida.  However, we hope to welcome her back to the ANS and RRDP in future.

This release has also benefited from the keen eye and interest of Jeremy Haag.  He and Liv Yarrow discovered they were both working on RRC 378 and decided to team up.  Haag has a PhD in Plant Biology and works for Bayer Crop Science as a research scientist, but in his spare time is an avid numismatist with a deep interest in the Roman Republican series.   He will co-present at the Long Table on how RRDP has been forwarding his research. Similar updates on other volunteers and collaborators will be included in each new release.

Our biggest goals are to continue to transcribe ODEC issues, but we also want to refine the transcription process to make it more user friendly and thus enable more and faster transcription. We’ll also be reviewing community feedback and adjusting and refining the display of information. 

If this pilot project is successful, we hope to develop a means by which new materials can be directly incorporated into RRDP through a web interface, so that it can be a living die study that is constantly improving in accuracy rather than a static archive.  We also hope to collaborate with other die study initiatives to ensure the RRDP data is fully integrated into those projects. 

At the upcoming Long Table on Friday, July 16th, titled Digitized die-studies: an update on RRDP and SILVER, this possibility will be discussed in detail by Caroline Carrier. Caroline is the lead post-doctoral researcher on the SILVER project, which is building a database of all known ancient world silver die studies.

ANS eBay Store Behind-the-Scenes: Coin Photography

As the ANS continues to make duplicates from its collection available on eBay, it may be of interest to Society members and eBay browsers alike to learn how our listings are photographed, as this is one of several important steps in ensuring that objects offered on eBay are described accurately. Detailed text descriptions are of course important, but in our current digital age, many buyers immediately gravitate towards listings with consistent, high-quality photos. This is true for both eBay and almost any other online auction platform.

While the photographic process associated with cataloging the American Numismatic Society’s various holdings is more rigorous and precise than what is required for eBay, the steps for both are generally similar. Once the individual objects and lots have been selected, they are taken to an area separate from the equipment used to photograph collection objects. This photography setup is comparatively low-tech, and relies on an LED light box, a larger professional studio light, a tripod, and staging platforms and props where individual objects and lots can be quickly arranged, photographed, and placed back into protective flips, archival bags, and tubes. The setup is a balance between speed and efficiency coupled with taking sharp, clear, and well-lit photos that require minimal editing.

A close-up and broader view of the ANS’ eBay photography area.

Because speed and efficiency are critical, photos are taken on an ordinary smartphone so that images can be wirelessly transferred to a computer workstation for editing immediately after photos are taken. Likewise, care is taken to ensure that each shot has the proper lighting (both intensity and color) best suited to the objects being photographed, are angled correctly to catch the light and accurately highlight the objects’ surfaces, are clear and sharp by way of a steady tripod adapted to hold a smartphone, and are photographed at a distance proportional to the size of the object. A 3-inch medal, for example, is photographed so that it takes up the majority of the real-estate of the shot, whereas a U.S. silver three-cent “trime” will be photographed close enough to capture its details, while taking up much less space in the shot, so that when the two photos are viewed together, the relative size of each object is clear.

To illustrate the above as well as subsequent steps, we will use two objects as our example pieces: a 32 mm gilt bronze George Washington bicentennial medal, and a 19 mm copper Civil War store card token. In the below photos, we see the obverse and reverse of each object side-by-side, both propped on a clear acrylic stand and angled to capture the light based on the reflectiveness of each object, and taken at a distance relative to their size.

Original obverse and reverse photos of a George Washington medal and Civil War store card token.

Once photos have been taken and all objects are safely stored away, the files can be wirelessly transferred to a computer workstation, where they are edited in a computer program to be more presentable on eBay. Editing is a crucial step, but also one where overzealous editing is discouraged. Photos destined for eBay undergo two steps: rotating the object to ensure correct orientation, and replacing the background with a neutral gradient. You may have noticed that in the above photos, the obverse of the George Washington medal was completely upside down; this was not a mistake, but rather a move to ensure that any shadows appeared at the rear of Washington’s head, and not along his face. After the objects have been rotated, the background is removed, and a neutral gradient is added to avoid the stark contrast of a pure white background.

Rotated obverse and reverse photos of a George Washington medal (background removed) and Civil War store card token (neutral gradient background).

The coins are now ready to be uploaded to eBay. The process is designed so that if only a single object needed to be photographed, the total time required to take and edit the photo should be less than 5 minutes. Regarding the angle of the object, it should be impressed upon the budding photographer that it truly is important to experiment and adjust as necessary to ensure that the object’s surfaces and luster (if present) are accurately captured, providing that the degree of the angle is not so extreme that the object appears stretched or distorted. As an example, the below image highlights how the same George Washington medal appears when photographed head-on versus the soft angle that reveals the true beauty of this medal as if viewed in-hand and rotated around in the light. The light source itself can be adjusted, but generally it is easier to move the object relative to the light source and not the other way around.

George Washington medal photographed head-on compared to a soft angle.

We hope this behind-the-scenes blog post sheds some light on one facet of listing ANS objects on eBay. Perhaps it will inspire others to try their hand at photographing numismatic objects; all it takes is a few pieces of equipment, some basic knowledge, and a willingness to experiment and learn.

Antigonid Coins Online

Ruling over parts of Asia Minor and Macedonia starting with Antigonus I Monophthalmus (the “One-Eyed”, r. 306­–301 BC), the Antigonid dynasty of Hellenistic kings produced some of the most attractive and important coinages of the late 4th through 2nd centuries BC. Curiously, however, Antigonid coinage has not attracted a great deal of concentrated scholarly attention since Edward T. Newell’s work on it roughly a century ago. That situation now is rapidly changing as a number of Greek scholars, notably Sophia Kremydi, ANS Visiting Scholar in 2009, and Katerina Panagopoulou, have offered recent monographs on the coinages of selected Antigonid dynasts. Kremydi’s 2018 volume, ‘Autonomous’ Coinage under the Late Antigonids (Melethmata 79) provides up-to-date overviews of the coinages of Philip V (r. 221–179 BC) and Perseus (r. 179–168 BC), while Panagopoulou’s about-to-be-published volume, The Early Antigonids: Coinage, Money and the Economy (ANS 2020), looks closely at the coinages from Antigonus II Gonatas (r. 277–274; 272–239 BC) down to Antigonus Doson (r. 229–221 BC).

As part of this broader push to re-evaluate Antigonid coinage, we are pleased to announce the launch of Antigonid Coinage Online (AGCO). As part of the National Endowment of the Humanities funded Hellenistic Royal Coinages project, AGCO is a new research tool that will provide wide access to the coins listed in various print typologies of the coinages produced by the Antigonid dynasts who ruled Macedonia from 306 to 168 BC, including eventually the current work by Kremydi and Panagopoulou. In the meantime, however, the first version of AGCO, launched in mid-July 2020, features only the coinage of Demetrius I Poliorcetes (r. 294–287 BC) based on the typology published in Edward T. Newell’s 1927 volume, The Coinages of Demetrius Poliorcetes with cross-references as well to those types in the name of Alexander III of Macedon catalogued by Martin Price in his 1991 volume The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus. While the coins of Demetrius in the ANS collection serve as the core of the current searchable catalogue, links to coins (many of which are unique) in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the British Museum, the Munzkabinett der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and other public and private collections, are also available.

As always, a number of people have been involved behind the scenes in the production of AGCO besides myself and Ethan Gruber, our Director of Data Science. Andrew Meadows, former Deputy Director of the ANS and current Professor of History at Oxford University, did much of the heavy lifting in converting Newell’s 1927 typology into a digital format, while Lauren Tomanelli, a PhD candidate in archaeology at the University of Arizona, was instrumental in helping with numerous other tasks as well. Our thanks to them both. We would also like to thank our colleagues at the Münzkabinett in Berlin, Dr. Karsten Dahmen, and at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Dr. Julien Olivier, for their cataloguing work that has allowed us to link up examples of coins from the collections they oversee.

For those interested in the technical details of creating this and other ANS online resources, please see Ethan’s Numishare blog.

Binders of Richard Schaefer’s Roman Republican Die Project (RRDP) now online

by Lucia Carbone, Assistant Curator for Roman Coins, American Numismatic Society; and Liv Yarrow, Associate Professor of Classics, Brooklyn College

The practical problem is that counting all the dies used to strike during the Republic would be the work of several lifetimes.

—M. H. Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, 641

In 1974 M. H. Crawford authoritatively stated the virtual impracticability of comprehensive die studies encompassing the whole Roman Republican monetary production.  For this very reason, he turned to estimating monetary production through hoard studies (e.g., RRC Tables L–LVII). This method was further developed by, among others, Kris Lockyear, who further expanded Crawford’s archive of Roman Republican hoards, produced a landmark statistical study on the patterns of monetary production based on these data, and continues to use the data to improve our understanding of the relative chronology of the series.

However, about 25 years, ago Richard Schaefer began to collect systematically images of all struck Roman Republican issues included in Crawford’s Roman Republican Coinage.  While no precise final count is available yet, it is estimated that Schaefer has documented and analyzed some 300,000 specimens in the Roman Republican Die Project (RRDP). His archive thus proves that it is indeed possible, even if extremely challenging, to create reliable quantitative data for the monetary production of the Roman Republic. Schaefer’s study encompasses all struck Roman Republican issues included in Crawford’s Roman Republican Coinage with a few logical exceptions, like the large issue of C. Piso L.f. Frugi (RRC 408, c. 61 BCE redated based on the Mesagne hoard) for which Charles Hersh had already produced a complete die study. For each issue of struck coins, Schaefer determined the die links for either obverse or reverse.  The goal of this project has been to collect enough images and identify enough dies to achieve 90% or better coverage. Fig. 1

Figure 1. Richard “Dick” Schaefer’s working station.
Figure 1. Richard Schaefer’s working station.

Schaefer’s notations on each clipping record the image source, as well as any and all information in the source such as weight, axis, diameter, and his assigned die identifier (a number or a letter). The specifics of Schaefer’s collecting and analysis methods are detailed in our article for the ANS Magazine “Opening access to Roman Republican Dies”. Schaefer’s archive consists of 14 three-inch three-ring binders. Fig. 2

Figure 2. A page from Richard “Dick” Schaefer’s binders. The specimens here collected are part of RRC 426/3, one of the issues of 56 BCE under the name of Faustus Cornelius Sulla, son of the dictator.
Figure 2. A page from Richard Schaefer’s binders. The specimens here collected are part of RRC 426/3, one of the issues of 56 BCE under the name of Faustus Cornelius Sulla, son of the dictator.

These hold at minimum the two best examples of all known dies for all issues covered by RRDP and on occasion additional specimens.  Of course, the binder only has one example in cases where a die is only known (so far!) from a single coin.  Further examples of the known dies represented in the binders are stored in die order in small drawers (“output” or “output clippings” in the evolving language of RRDP) , each of which can hold up to four hundred images. These clippings should join the binders online by the end of summer.  Fig. 3

Figure 3. A clippings drawer with images of RRC 320/1.
Figure 3. A clippings drawer with images of RRC 320/1.

The same type of drawers and the same organization is used to store a special sub-set of thirty-five types of particular interest to those interested in the statistical analysis and quantification of surviving dies versus the original number of dies.  These types make up a collection called ODEC for short (One Die for Every Control-Mark). As Schaefer says, around 2000 he “realized the ODEC issues could tell us how many dies we know out of the original total; inversely, they tell us how many dies we still have not found.  For example, if an ODEC issue has control numbers 1 to 150, the missing numbers give us the number of dies still not found.” Readers familiar with the importance of Theodore ‘Ted’ Buttrey study of the P. Crepusius denarii will already be acquainted with this type of evidence and how it has taken center stage in debates over quantification.  ODEC only includes issues that are large enough to be statistically meaningful; thus it excludes the smaller issues which are treated in the binders as ordinary types (RRC 376, 398 and 399) and issues like RRC 350A/3 which is huge but the control letter is too often off the flan and thus the current number of specimens in RRDP is statistically too small. Schaefer has also documented that not all of thirty-five types considered to have only one control mark per die by Crawford actually fit that description; of these, quinarii issued by a P. (Vettius?) Sabinus in c. 99 BCE (RRC 331) have by far the most symbols repeated on different dies.  Another curiosity that Schaefer discovered is the issue of serrated denarii by C. Naevius Balbus (c. 79 BCE, RRC 382); control numbers 1–39 are all represented by two or more dies, but almost all numbers 40–226 are represented by only one die.  Schaefer’s work on ODEC will prove invaluable for testing and verifying new and existing statistical models for quantification. Fig. 4 The ODEC images will be made public at the same time as other clippings.

Figure 4. An image of some of the output clippings drawers in Schaefer’s office.
Figure 4. An image of some of the output clippings drawers in Schaefer’s office.

In early 2019 the ANS partnered with Schaefer in the Roman Republican Die Project, aiming at making available to the public what is likely to be the largest die study ever undertaken.  The first part of this project consisted of the digital preservation of Schaefer’s archive and was completed in June 2019. In this initial digitization phase, we aimed to publish the binders and the clippings, assembled as TEI files of facsimile images, published the ANS archival platform, Archer and linked to CRRO. Fig. 5. The binders, the largest part of Schaefer’s archive, are now online and available to the academic community.  We aim to have all further images accessible by the end of the summer.

Figure 5. A screenshot of page 1 of binder 6 in Archer open to specimens of RRC 114/1.
Figure 5. A screenshot of page 1 of binder 6 in Archer open to specimens of RRC 114/1.

The second phase of this project consists in the quantification of Schaefer’s die counts as recorded in these images. The whole process entails the creation of spreadsheets for each RRC type, including a listing of each obverse and reverse die, and a number of occurrences for each die. Eventually this statistical data will be published and made accessible through Coinage of the Roman Republic Online.

We envision a much more ambitious third phase after all the existing data is publicly available in which we create a research group and digital tools to expand on Schaefer’s work, incorporating new specimens and increasing coverage of all issues.

The die studies realized by Richard Schaefer and now digitized and organized in ANS Roman Republican Die Project (RRDP) are an invaluable asset to the study of Roman Republican History. They could prove instrumental to show A) the accuracy of the figures provided by ancient sources and B) the reliability (or not) of Crawford (and later) production estimates based on hoard counts.

Ready to see the Schaefer’s binders for yourself?  There are multiple ways into the material:

If you want to view the whole binders just as they are on Schaefer’s office, you can flip through each binder and zoom in and out directly in Archer, the ANS archival platform.  Below the page viewer, you will find an index of the binder organized by RRC number that allows you to jump to a specific type in that binder.

Binder 1

Binder 2

Binder 3

Binder 4

Binder 5

Binder 6

Binder 7

Binder 8

Binder 9

Binder 10

Binder 11

Binder 12

Binder 13

Binder 14

If you are interested in seeing what Schaefer’s archive can tell us about a specific coin type, start with CRRO.  Search by RRC number.  When you open a type, look for a link at the very top that says Annotations.  This will take you to the bottom of the page and then let you jump to just the right pages of the binders in Archer. Fig. 6.

Figure 6. A screenshot of the CRRO record for RRC 433/2 with links to corresponding materials in Schaefer’s binders on Archer.
Figure 6. A screenshot of the CRRO record for RRC 433/2 with links to corresponding materials in Schaefer’s binders on Archer.

The numbers listed under sections link to the pages in the binder with images of the type (yellow arrow).  Clicking the binder name will take you to the first page of that binder (orange arrow).

A New Monograms Function in Hellenistic Royal Coinages

One of the more enigmatic aspects of ancient Greek coinage, and Hellenistic coinage in particular, are the many symbols and monograms that appear on them. Already in the early fifth century BC, some coin producers, such as the exiled Samians in Zancle in Sicily, began to put letters and symbols on their coins that served functions beyond just identifying the political authority, like the abbreviated ethnic, ΑΘΕ, that appeared on early Athenian coinage identifying the Athenians as the producers of the new owl coinage.

ANS 1944.100.24122

In the case of the Samians at Zancle, the sequence of letters on different issues, Α, Β, Γ, etc., clearly were not ethnics, but probably meant to distinguish the individual issues.

ANS 1963.106.1

The most convincing arguments to date suggest that these letters represent the sequential years of production, e.g., Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, etc.

Over time Greek coins became increasingly “chatty” with more letters and symbols appearing on them, usually on the reverse alongside the ethnic or name of a king or magistrate.

ANS 1944.100.41905

While many of these letters are clearly era dates, some of them, especially the combined letters we call monograms, are not. Their function along with the multitude of additional symbols—everything from representations of animals to cups to weapons to plants, and so on—are far more perplexing. Some symbols we believe are “mint marks” serving much the same function as ethnics, identifying the authority or place of production, such as a rose on some posthumous Alexander types indicating that they were produced on the island of Rhodes under the authority of the Rhodians.

ANS 1944.100.32241

Some of the symbols that we cannot so easily link to a specific political authority or place of production may have served other functions, identifying, for example, a lower-level authority responsible for the production of the that specific batch of coinage, or the source of the metal, for example. Similar arguments are made for many of the monograms.

In order to truly understand the function of these symbols and monograms, we need a comprehensive electronic database of all of them, something which would include the estimated 10,000 separate monograms and thousands of additional symbols that appear on Greek coinage from early 5th century down to the end of the Hellenistic period. Such a comprehensive database would allow us to observe with greater accuracy where and for how long specific monograms and symbols were used, which in turn might offer some insight into their specific function. A number of researchers independently have been toiling away on monograms and symbol databases for specific subsets of coinage. For example, our colleagues in Berlin, led by Ulrike Peter, working the Coprus Nummorum have been building an important database of monograms and symbols appears on coins produced in ancient Moesia Inferior, Thrace, Mysia, and Troas. Dr. Peter along with other members of the Greek steering committee of Nomisma.org, who have been working on other databases, have been holding discussions on how to combine all efforts into a larger universal database.

At the ANS, our efforts towards this larger goal have, for the moment, focused on the coins covered by our Hellenistic Royal Coinages project: the coinages (in the name) of Philip II of Macedonia; the coinages (in the name) of Alexander III the Great; Ptolemaic coinages; and Seleucid coinages. With the help of Mark Pyzyk, Lauren Tomanelli, and Oliver Hoover, we have been systematically digitizing all of the monograms appearing on these coins—nearly 5,000 individual monograms—creating scalable and printable svg files for each one. Individual nomisma.org IDs are then created for each monogram, which is then linked to the type record in HRC for the coin type on which the monogram appears, whether in PELLA, Seleucid Coins Online, or Ptolemaic Coins Online.  In the meantime, I have been identifying the Greek letters that to my eye at least appear in these monograms trying to be as inclusive as possible. All of our work now has added a new dimension of functionality to HRC.

When users select the “Symbols” tab at the top of the PELLA landing page, for example, they are presented with images of the first 24 of the 1,207 monograms appearing on the coinages (in the name) of Alexander. Users can continue to search visually for the monograms that interests them, or can parse by selecting constituent letters. Once the desired monogram has been located, clicking on the image of the monogram takes them to a separate page that includes metadata information, a map of where coins produced with that monogram were struck, and links to examples of coins in PELLA with that monogram. For the symbols that appear on the coins, such as a rose, users can employ the symbol search function locating on the left-hand side of the browse screen, specifying where on the coin the symbol appears.

Currently, the monogram functionality is limited to just PELLA and PCO, but soon it will be added to SCO as well. Our ultimate goal remains to combine these three separate monogram and symbol tools into one that is much larger including not just our work on the monograms and symbols appearing on Hellenistic Royal coinages, but the work of others on different groups of Greek coinage as well.

For more information on this new monogram functionality please see the blog of our Director of Data Science, Ethan Gruber.

Seleucid Coins Online as a Clearinghouse for New Information

sco-banner

As work continues apace to add monograms to the coin data presented in Seleucid Coins Online (SCO) (as well as for PELLA and PCO), it seemed worthwhile to point out a feature that is swiftly becoming one of the major benefits of SCO to students of Seleucid numismatics. Whereas in the past it has been necessary to wait for the arrival of new publications in order to learn of discoveries impacting attribution, the notes field in SCO now makes it possible to provide information on new attributions almost as soon as it becomes available.

In an article that appeared in the ANS Magazine last year (“Is there a Santa Claus? The Story of Seleucid Coins Online”), I noted that it had been possible to reattribute a tetradrachm from Antiochus Hierax (c. 242–227 BC) to Antiochus III (223–187 BC) and from the Hellespont to Phrygia based on a new die link reported by a collector—a fact included in the notes fields of the linked types, SC 860 and SC 1001. Since then, even more new evidence for reattributions has been coming to light and duly marked in the notes fields of the relevant types. In this way, researchers using SCO are instantly apprised of modifications to the attributions originally published in Seleucid Coins, A Comprehensive Catalogue in 2002 and 2008.

Figure 1.
Figure 1. SC 2122. Bronze coin of Antiochus VII Sidetes.

Numismatists interested in SC 2122, a bronze coin of Antiochus VII Sidetes (138–129 BC) featuring helmet and aphlaston types (Fig. 1), will discover in the notes field accompanying the type in SCO that in the 2019 volume of Israel Numismatic Research, D. T. Ariel presented new find evidence that strongly points to Jerusalem as the issuing mint. Based on more general provenance information, SC 2122 was described circumspectly as a “Bronze Issue of Southern Coele Syria” in Seleucid Coins, Part 2, but the large number of specimens Ariel shows to have been found in the environs of Jerusalem, now make that city the most likely mint for this issue. He further supports attribution to Jerusalem by pointing to the use of types that would be inoffensive to a Jewish audience—a feature also found on SC 2122, a type of Antiochus VII long associated with Jerusalem—and the subsequent reuse of a similar helmet type for bronze coins of the Hasmonaean High Priest John Hyrcanus I following the secession of Judaea from the Seleucid Empire (Fig. 2).

Figure 2.
Figure 2. SC1932. Bronze of Demetrius II.

SC 1932 is a bronze type struck in the first reign of Demetrius II Nicator (145–143 BC) that was only known from two examples when Seleucid Coins, Part 2, was published in 2008. One was obtained by Henri Seyrig and subsequently entered the collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Fig. 3) and the other appeared in the second Houghton collection of Seleucid coins (CSE 2, 519). The great rarity of the issue may be gauged by the fact that the Society’s own Seleucid numismatic superstar, Edward T. Newell, seems not to have owned an example. At least, if he had ever possessed one, it did not make it into the ANS collection with the rest of his vast Seleucid collection. Based primarily on the reverse type depicting Poseidon and Seyrig’s deep interest in Syria, it was suggested in Seleucid Coins that this issue was probably struck at Laodicea by the Sea. However, in light of a report by David Hendin last week of a third specimen of SC 1932 offered for sale by a dealer in Ashkelon (ancient Ascalon) raises serious doubts about the attribution to Laodicea. A rare bronze coin ostensibly from a city of the Syrian Tetrapolis seems a little out of place at a southern Israeli port city. Instead, it seems more likely that the tentative mint attribution in Seleucid Coins is incorrect and that SC 1932 was actually struck at Ascalon. This suspicion is further supported by the letters A/Σ that appear in the left field and match the first two letters in the city ethnic of Ascalon. These same letters also occur on Seleucid quasi-municipal bronze issues of Ascalon struck by Demetrius’ predecessor, Alexander I Balas (152–145 BC), and his rival, Antiochus VI Dionysus (144–c. 142 BC). With the new provenance information included in the notes, anyone researching SC 1932 will be made instantly aware of the probable reattribution.

Figure 3.
Figure 3. Bronze of Demetrius II. National Library of France.

All of this shows that over time, Seleucid Coins Online really does have the potential to become a true virtual clearinghouse for Seleucid numismatic information and the ultimate source for up-to-date attributions superseding those given in the print volumes of Seleucid Coins, A Comprehensive Catalogue.

 

 

 

Roman Imperial Coinage and OCRE

Roman Imperial Coinage (RIC) is the definitive corpus of coins issued under the Roman Empire. This 10-volume typology spans 460 years of Roman minting (from 31 BCE–491 CE), and its publication was itself a monumental undertaking. Begun in 1923 with a volume covering Augustus to Vitellius, the corpus was completed in 1994, ending with the emperor Zeno.

But numismatic knowledge is never crystallized. Spink releases updated volumes as necessary to reflect current research and progression in the field. In 2019, Spink released their latest addition to the RIC corpus. This updated version of RIC covers the Hadrian section of Volume II. It includes new finds, corrects old errors, and provides more detailed dating.

In response, the American Numismatic Society is updating its Online Coins of the Roman Empire (OCRE) digital corpus to reflect the new edition. This searchable database provides access to the valuable typologies published by Spink, and assembles more than 130,000 examples from the ANS collection, the Münzkabinett of the State Museum of Berlin, the British Museum, and 40 additional museums and archaeological databases. The OCRE project began in 2011 and was assisted by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The platform acts as an accessible catalog and a search tool for scholars and collectors alike.

OCRE provides more than easily accessible data: its digital nature creates a new analytical tool for researchers. The platform offers numerous options to refine searches, deepening user customization and allowing for more nuanced inquiry. The abundant samples of coinage types—drawing from three of the largest numismatic collections worldwide—create an unparalleled opportunity for die studies. OCRE’s high-resolution images make die studies easier on the eyes and permits study to occur remotely. The current OCRE update supports the ANS’ goal to offer the most contemporary resources available for numismatic study.

In addition to this digital initiative, the ANS is incorporating the updated numbering system into its own collections database. Each of the ANS’ 1,600 Hadrianic coins will be renumbered according to the new volume. The original volume’s classification system grouped similar coins together under a single number, making extensive use of subtypes (Hadrian 101a–c, for example, are identical except for slight obverse bust variations). The 2019 update moves away from subtypes and assigns each variation its own unique number. In addition, the new volume distinguishes obverse bust types with more granularity and assigns separate numbers for each bust variation. The ANS is editing its database, Mantis, to reflect this simplification of the typology.

To realize this important update, the ANS has hired a temporary assistant to incorporate the volume into OCRE and renumber their Hadrian collection. If you are an OCRE user, patron of numismatics, or passionate about digital accessibility, please consider donating to our GoFundMe page in support of this initiative.

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CoinHoards.org Launched

igch-bannerThe American Numismatic Society is pleased to announce the launch of CoinHoards, a new web-based, linked open data tool for research in ancient Greek numismatics and ancient economies.

Coin Hoards is a component of the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded Hellenistic Royal Coinages project developed by the American Numismatic Society (ANS). An innovative research resource, CoinHoards provides primary data and other information on 2,387 hoards of coins produced by Greeks and other non-Roman peoples in the Mediterranean and adjacent regions between ca. 650 and 30 BCE. In addition to a basic description, users will find on the page devoted to each hoard mapping tools for the findspot and mint(s) where the coins found in the hoard were produced, bibliographical references, and a list of the hoard contents. These tools will allow users to compare and contrast circulation patterns of coinage in various parts of the Mediterranean world over time. Where possible, each type of coin listed is linked to a typological description, such as those found on PELLA, Seleucid Coins Online, and Ptolemaic Coins Online. Additional links are provided where possible to relevant resources associated with the hoard, which might include the MANTIS record of individual coins from the hoard held in the ANS collection, ANS publications, the notebooks of Edward T. Newell, and associated correspondence, notes, and archival material.

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The current version of CoinHoards is based on the print publication Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards, edited by Margaret Thompson, Otto Mørkholm, and Colin Kraay, published in 1973 by the ANS for the International Numismatic Commission. Future versions of CoinHoards will incorporate material from the print publications Coin Hoards, vols. 1–10, published by the Royal Numismatic Society, and more recently by both the Royal Numismatic Society and the ANS.

The launch of CoinHoards is a remarkable step forward in our ability to trace circulation patterns of ancient coinage and thereby gain greater insight into patterns of trade and other types of economic interaction. This new website allows users to conduct in-depth research on scores of related hoards and their contents in just a few minutes, saving hours or even days of research time.

For more information on the technical side of how CoinHoards was assembled, see the ANS’s Director of Data Science Ethan Gruber’s Numishare blog.

Massive Update to Ptolemaic Coins Online

In 2018, the ANS launched Ptolemaic Coins Online as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities funded Hellenistic Royal Coinages (HRC) project. Ptolemaic Coins Online (PCO) is an innovative research tool that will ultimately provide wide access to the coins listed in the print volumes of Coins of the Ptolemaic Empire by Catharine C. Lorber, which was published by the ANS, the first attempt to provide a new, comprehensive standard typology and catalogue for the coinage produced by the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt since Ioannis Svoronos’s Τα νομίσματα του κράτους των Πτολεμαίων published in 1904–1908. The print volumes of Coins of the Ptolemaic Empire will eventually appear in four parts: Volume I appeared in 2018 covering the gold and silver coinage (Part I) and bronze coinage (Part II) of Ptolemy I (r. 323–282 BC) through Ptolemy IV (r. 221–204 BC). Volume II covering the gold and silver coinage (Part I) and bronze coinage (Part II) of Ptolemy V (r. 203–181 BC) through Cleopatra VII (r. 51–30 BC) is expected to appear in print by the end of 2021. The newly updated version of PCO, released on April 24, 2020, now includes the typology of the bronze coinages found in Volume I, Part II of Coins of the Ptolemaic Empire, in addition to the gold and silver coinages found in Volume I, Part I.

Bronze Drachma of Ptolemy III Euergetes, Alexandria, 246 – 222 BC. ANS 1929.66.21.

As part of the new update, examples of 590 Ptolemaic bronze coins from the ANS collection have been added to PCO, bringing the total number of available examples of all coins on PCO to 3,200 from 12 museums located around the world.

The inclusion of these Ptolemaic bronzes into PCO marks a major step forward for researchers worldwide since these coins remain some of the least understood coinages from antiquity. For researchers to have open access to a modern typology and to be able to see examples of the coins from collections around the world will undoubtedly help further our understanding of them.

For those interested in the technical aspects of this update, see the post by ANS’s Director of Data Science, Ethan Gruber, on the Numishare blog.

 

 

 

 

The Coinage of Philip II now in PELLA

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 Back in 2015, the ANS launched PELLA (numismatics.org/pella) as our first foray into creating dedicated online tools with a focus on ancient Greek numismatics, modeled on those we had already created for Roman coinage such as Online Coins of the Roman Empire. More recently, after we were awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2017 for the Hellenistic Royal Coinages (HRC) project. PELLA was incorporated into HRC as one of its several components. Even as we’ve continued to build out the other components of HRC, including Seleucid Coins Online and Ptolemaic Coins Online, we’ve been working on adding new features to PELLA as well. Just this week, in fact, we finished adding to PELLA a catalogue and typology for the gold and silver coinage of Philip II.

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From the beginning our intention has been to make PELLA an innovative research tool aiming, among other things, to provide a comprehensive typology and catalog of the coinages struck by the Macedonian kings of the Argead dynasty (c. 700–310 BCE), arguably the most influential coinages of the ancient Greek world. Fueled first by indigenous precious metal mines in their native Macedonia, and later by the spoils of their conquests, including the rich treasures of the Persian Empire, the Argeads’ numismatic output was monumental. For centuries after their deaths, coins in the name of Philip II (ruled 359–336 BCE) and Alexander the Great (ruled 336–323 BCE) continued to be produced by successor kings, civic mints, and imitators from Central Asia to Central Europe. The coinage of the Argeads themselves and that produced in their names has been extensively studied, but to date no comprehensive, easily accessible catalog of all their coinages exists. We’ve designed PELLA to fill that gap. Our goal has been to catalogue the individual coin types of the Argead kings from Alexander I (ruled 498–454 BCE), the first of the Macedonian kings to strike coins, down to Philip III Arrhidaeus (ruled 323–317 BCE), the last of the titular kings to do so, including as well the numerous posthumous civic and successor coinages struck in the names of the kings.

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The updated version of PELLA we launched this week now includes the coinage (in the name of) Philip II organized using George Le Rider’s Le monnayage d’argent et d’or de Philippe II frappé en Macédoine de 359 a 294, 1977. This material joins the existing catalogue and typology of the coinage (in the name) of Alexander III and Philip III, which is organized using reference numbers from Martin Price’s The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus, London 1991. The updated version of PELLA now provides 4,995 individual coin type pages with links to over 20,000 examples of the coinage (in the name) of Philip II, the coinage (in the name) of Alexander the Great, and the coinage of Philip III Arrhidaeus that are present in 19 collections located in the United States and Europe.

For those interested in some of the more technical aspects of how we build out these sites, and more specifically on the addition of the Philip II material to PELLA, check out the blog of our Director of Data Science, Ethan Gruber.