Thursday, June 18, 2009

Coins in Context I: New Perspectives for the Interpretation of Coin Finds

Hot off the press, I just received my copy of H.-M. von Kaenel and F. Kemmers (eds.). 2009. Coins in Context I: New Perspectives for the Interpretation of Coin Finds. Studien zu Fundmünzen der Antike 23 (Mainz: von Zabern). The book may now be ordered directly from the publisher.

I am personally very happy to see this book in print since I assisted with some of the editorial work and also contributed to the volume. I also believe that this book fills a void in the sense that it presents a number of case studies and methodological essays about the potential of comprehensive studies of coin finds from archaeological contexts in English. A conscious effort was made to publish most of the contributions in English since much of the detailed literature on the study of Roman coin finds in particular has been published in German. Therefore, this volume should make some of the perspectives and approaches available to a wider audience.

The subject matter of the book is briefly summarized on the back cover:
"Coin finds are an integral part of the archaeological record. By studying coins in the contexts in which they were found, a great deal of information can be gained on how coins functioned in past societies. Where archaeology and numismatics are truly combined, the enormous potential of this approach is apparent. The conclusions contribute to our understanding of the use, loss and deposition of coins in antiquity, their circulation speed, the manner and pace in which coins were brought into a society, etc.; conclusions which are not only of interest to numismatists, but also to archaeologists, anthropologists and historians alike.

In order to discuss theories and methods for this particular approach, the conference ‘Coins in Context’ was held in Frankfurt am Main in October 2007. The majority of the papers presented at the conference, as well as some further sollicited papers on the subject, are presented in this volume. The first group of papers gives an overview of the theoretical and methodological status quaestionis of contextual numismatics, while each of them explicitly points out promising directions in future research. The second group of papers focuses on the possibilities of a close study of coins and associated archaeological contexts at the level of a single site. The last group discusses approaches to a better understanding of the use and functions of coins."

This collected volume grew out of a seminar taught at Frankfurt University in 2006/2007 and a colloquium on the subject of "Coins in Context" that was later held in the fall of 2007. A portion of the editors' foreword states:
"The numerous discussions emanating from this seminar prompted us to organize an international colloquium on this topic to enhance the debate further. As both of us [von Kaenel and Kemmers] are involved, in our own work and as program managers, in numismatic research in an archaeological context, we feel that this approach to coins is one of the ways forward in numismatics. The future lies with young scholars, and these are the ones most open to new methods in research and so many younger scholars were invited to participate in the colloquium."

In the coming weeks, I will discuss certain individual contributions here on this website and will use the keyword "Coins in Context I" so that all future posts pertaining to this volume can be easily located by interested visitors to this website. I am careful to use the word "discuss" instead of "review" since I am fully aware that my role as a contributor to the volume would make me an impartial reviewer. Since I am also promoting the content of this book, I should also make it clear that neither I nor any of the contributors to the volume profit from book sales.

The book is divided into three sections: "Methodological Overviews," "Potential at Site Level," and "Potential Uses." For interested parties I provide a list of contributions and their authors below:

Coins in Context - Methodological Overviews:
  • H.-M. von Kaenel, "Coins in context - a personal approach"
  • N.T. Elkins, "Coins, contexts, and an iconographic approach for the 21st century"
  • St. Krmnicek, "Das Konzept der Objektbiographie in der antiken Numismatik"
Coins in Context - Potential at Site Level:
  • P. Beliën, "From coins to comprehensive narrative? The coin finds from the Roman army camp on Kops Plateau at Nijmegen: problems and opportunities"
  • H. Brem, "Lignum aere perennius? Dendrochronology and Roman coin circulation - taking stock and looking to the future using finds and features from Oberwinterthur"
  • B. Kaczynski and M. Nüsse, "Reverse type selection in sanctuaries? A study of antoniniani found in various contexts"
  • D. Wigg-Wolf, "Sites as context"
Coins in Context - Potential Uses:
  • L. Bjerg, "On the trail of ancient trading places? Finds of Roman denarii from settlements in Jutland - froman an archaeological point of view"
  • F. Kemmers, "Sender or receiver? Contexts of coin supply and coin use"
  • N. Myrberg, "The social identity of coin hoards: an example of theory and practice in the space between numismatics and archaeology"
  • M. Nick, "Economic and social patterns in Celtic coin use"



Is there a North American source for this book? Amazon and OxbowBooks seem to lack it.


Hi Ed,

Sorry that it took me a few days to post your comment. I've been in the chaotic process of moving.

I don't believe there is a North American source for the book, though in coming months it may start appearing on third party sites like If the German interface is giving you trouble ordering from the von Zabern website, you could probably call (very cheap internationally if you are using Skype) and speak to someone in English to make an order.

All best,