Tag Archives: rrdp

New Data Release from the RRDP Project

by Alice Sharpless and Lucia Carbone

This blog post accompanies the second release of data for the RRDP Project. You can read more about the project and the first release in Carbone and Yarrow’s July 13, 2021 blog post.

Figure 1. RRC 357/2, Münzkabinett Wien RÖ 2384.

With our second data release we are continuing with our focus on the period of 92–75 BCE (RRC types 336–392). The new release includes the following RRC types:

Some of the issues released, i.e., 357/1a, 357/1b, and 385/4 are ODEC: One Die for Each Control Mark (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. RRC 357/1b, ANS 1941.131.162.

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 current release has allowed us to add a total of 3,515 specimens to CRRO, including 2,541 ODEC specimens, thus further enhancing our knowledge of ODEC issues.

Figure 3. Schaefer RRC 344/3 Reverse 67 featuring new control symbol.

344/3 was minted under L. Titurius Sabinus in 89 BCE (Fig. 3). Crawford counted 200 reverse dies, but with Schaefer’s materials this number has been raised to 224. Schaefer’s materials also reveal six new control symbols of Titurius Sabinus:

Schaefer’s materials also include a second example of a variant reverse die where Victory holds a whip rather than wreath, with no control mark. Crawford had already noted the example in the collection of the University of Oslo. Before this data release there were 283 specimens represented in CRRO. There are now 770 specimens in CRRO.

Figure 4. RRC 385/4, Peacock control mark.

357/1a and 357/1b both date to 83 BCE, minted under G. Norbanus. 357/1a seems to be a small issue. Schaefer’s materials provide examples of 26 obverse dies. Crawford gave a range of numbered control marks from I to XXVI. Schaefer’s materials also include specimens with the control marks CXXXXVII and CXV (one die for each). These higher control marks might indicate that the issue was much larger than previously known, or these may be imitations. Before this data release there were 49 specimens represented in CRRO. There are now 217. 357/1b is a much larger issue. Crawford noted 156 obverse dies, but we can now raise that number to 210,with an additional 5 imitation dies. These materials do not add any new control marks to the range of I to CCXXVIIII provided by Crawford. Schaefer’s materials also show that this particular issue has a high number of brockages. This data release has added an additional 1,796 specimens to CRRO.

Figure 5. RRC 385/4 Bird r. (pea-hen?) control mark.

385/4 is another large issue minted under M. Voltei M. F. in 78 BCE which has both obverse and reverse control marks. This moneyer created a series wherein each of the five coins celebrates a different major religious festival: the ludi Romani (or plebeii, represented in RRC 385/1), Cereales (RRC 385/3), Megalenses (RRC 385/4), Apollinares (RRC 385/5), and, as it is suggested by the types on RRC 385/2,  the short-lived ludi Herculani (for a criticism to this chronology, see Keaveney 2005).The issue included in this data release thus celebrated the ludi Megalenses, which were established in 204 BCE to honor the Magna Mater, Cybele, as suggested by the reverse. Schaefer’s materials reveal 78 obverse dies (an increase from 71 noted by Crawford), although one is likely an imitation. There are 79 reverse dies (an increase from 71 noted by Crawford), three of which are probably imitations. This RRDP release has increased the specimens on CRRO from 182 to 759. Most notably, Schaefer’s materials also contribute six new obverse control marks that were not included by Crawford. They also allow for four corrections to Crawfords list (see table). Schaefer has shown that two of the reverse control marks (ΛΕ and ΜΘ) actually have two associated dies though there is no corresponding change in obverse die. This may suggest the original reverse dies broke or were damaged earlier than expected. The following table shows the updated list of control marks. New or corrected control marks are in bold. Schaefer also includes one specimen which appears to be an imitation of the Thyrsus/Θ pair. We are indebted to our volunteer David van Dyke for his work on this issue.

Winged caduceusB
Star (Obverse 1002)Δ
Lizard (Obverse 1010)ΙΕ
Heron walkingΙΗ
Peacock (Fig. 4; Obverse 1012)ΙΘ
Plane (Obverse 1013)Κ
Bird r. (pea-hen?) (Obverse 1015) [Crawford identifies as Peacock, but new control mark (above) show this cannot be a peacock; perhaps is a pea-hen, see Fig. 5]ΚΒ        
Piercer (Crawford, Pl. LXX 50)ΛΑ
Stilus (Obverse 1025)ΛΕ (2 dies, Fig. 6-7)
Pileus with starΛΖ
Boot r. (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 51)ΛΗ
Perfume-jar (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 52)Μ  
Staff with double hookΜΑ
Macedonian shieldΜΓ
Pear-shaped shieldΜΔ
Oval shieldΜΕ
Oblong shield with rounded cornersΜΣ
Oblong shield with square cornersΜΖ
Small round shieldΜΗ
Large round shieldΜΘ (2 dies)
Lighted altar (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 53)ΝΓ  
Altar (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 53)ΝΔ
Axe/Hatchet (Crawford,Pl. LXX, 54)ΝΕ  
Duck’s headΝΣ (not ΝΕ)
Stove (Pl. LXX, 55)Ξ
Short boot (Pl. LXX, 56)ΞΣ
Foot r.ΞΖ
Gourd? (Obverse 1059) [Crawford identifies as Knife-blade but this seems to be a mistake]ΞΗ    
Bow and quiverΟ
Crawford, Pl. LXX, 58ΟΓ
Small plumb bob? (Obverse 1065)ΟΔ
Bunch of grapesΟΕ
Shovel (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 59)ΟΘ
Small broom (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 60; Obverse 1071) [Crawford identifies as “comb” but probably associated with previous as tools for clearing fire ash]Π        
Mask of Silenus (Obverse 1072) [Crawford identifies as Mask of Pan]ΠΑ  
Mask of Pan (Obverse 1073)ΠΒ
Crested helmetΠΓ
Figure 6. Schaefer RRC 385/4 Reverse ΛΕ1, Obverse 1025 (stylus).
Figure 7. Schaefer RRC 385/4 Reverse ΛΕ2, Obverse 1025 (stylus).

A second group of issues included in this release is instrumental in illustrating the financing of Sulla’s campaign in Italy in 84-82 BCE. 359/1 (aureus) and 359/2 (denarius) are issues of L. Cornelius Sulla. For 359/1, Schaefer’s materials add five new specimens to CRRO, with the result that CRRO now includes all ten known specimens. Crawford recorded 6 obverse and 6 reverse dies for 359/1. Schaefer’s materials reveal another two for each, for a total of 8 reverse and 8 obverse dies. For 359/2, Schaefer’s materials provide 187 reverse dies—a significant increase from the 36 reverse dies Crawford recorded—and add 277 specimens to CRRO. There is a high number of singleton reverse dies, an element that could hint at an Eastern mint for these issues. An Eastern production is also suggested by the die-axis, which present a strong tendency toward 12:00, a common practice for Greek coinage, but almost unattested in Roman Republican coinage The Eastern minting techniques, together with the iconographical similarities between the reverse of these RRC issues and the so-called Athenian ‘trophies’ tetradrachms, strongly connect  RRC 359 issues to the early phases of Sulla’s reconquest of Italy (Figs. 8–9). 

Figure 8. Reverse of RRC 359/2, Berlin MünzKabinett 18206086.

The anonymous issues 375/1 (aureus) and 375/2 (denarius, Fig. 1) were recently published by Alberto Campana (“L’Emissione con “Q” di Silla (RRC 375/1–2, 82 a.C.)” Monete Antiche 118 (2021): 3–30). The aureus 357/1 is known from only a single specimen in the BnF (REP-21376). For 357/2, Campana includes more specimens than Schaefer and identifies 40 obverse and 111 reverse dies plus two plated obverse and reverse dies. Schaefer’s materials include 98 reverse dies and add 205 specimens to CRRO. On the basis of hoard evidence, Campana convincingly argues that these issues should also be included among the ones financing Sulla’s campaigns and possibly dated to the same years as RRC 359 issues. The contribution of RRDP to our knowledge of Sullan campaign financing strategies will be presented by Lucia Carbone on November 10 at the University of Virginia.

Figure 9. Reverse of New Style Silver tetradrachm, Athens, 86–84 BCE, ANS 2015.20.881.

The next RRDP release, tentatively scheduled for January 2022, will include all of the RRC 367 types, also related to the Sullan campaigns of 84–82 BCE. Crawford identifies five types (three denarii, two aurei) of this joint issue of Sulla and L. Manlius Torquatus. But it seems this issue can actually be broken down into more than five types, some of which were marked with control symbols. By focusing on 367 we aim to disentangle and revise Crawford’s typologies.

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:












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.

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).