Profiles in Research: Hilary Becker

By Matthew Wittman

Last week the ANS was visited by Hilary Becker, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Classics at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Becker was kind enough to sit for a short interview about her work, and what follows is a lightly edited transcript of our talk.

What brings you to the American Numismatic Society today?

I study Etruscan economy and exchange. I have worked on three Etruscan excavations and I currently work at S. Omobono in Rome, but I have never had the opportunity to handle Etruscan coinage. I have seen many, many, examples of Roman coinage but for someone working on Etruscan economy, just the simple fact of being able to handle it and to look for differences in scale was important to me.

How did you first come to the study of Etruscan history?

I went to Bryn Mawr College as an undergraduate, where I studied Classical Archaeology with Jean Turfa.

Were there some particular materials at the ANS that you were interested in?

Part of this visit was simply to be able to look at Etruscan coinage and study it in person for the first time. I am interested in the denominations of Etruscan coinage, especially the varied Etruscan numerals impressed on certain coinage. While it is one thing to study pictures of coins of different size and denomination in a book, it is very helpful to see them. The ANS has a great collection of coins from Populonia—which is worthy of study because it is the city with the longest history of minting in Etruria.

Did you make any new discoveries or see anything that gave you some new ideas about where you are heading with your work?

If anything I have new questions and some things to look up! One thing I was excited to see among the many great examples of Etruscan coinage was that there are about 
nine coins where you have what is undoubtedly an African head on one side and an elephant on the other. Most Etruscans sided with the Romans during the Second Punic War, but there’s a current theory that at least one group of Etruscans may have sided with Hannibal and maybe this minting was an indication of that.

ANS, 1944.100.1990

ANS, 1944.100.1990

And finally, when and where might we expect to see some of your published work on the Etruscan economy and coinage ?

I will be working on my monograph on the dynamics of the Etruscan economy this summer. I also have a webpage on where you can find and follow my work.