Saturday, January 31, 2009

Celator, Caelator, or Signator: What was a Roman Die-Engraver Called?

Anyone who is a member of online discussion forums on ancient coins or who reads collector/dealer websites and literature has undoubtedly encountered the word "celator," which is frequently used to refer to ancient die-engravers. The American-based ancient coin collector magazine, the Celator, along with certain books on ancient coin collecting, has likely popularized the use of the term among avocationalists.

Personally, I have always been uncomfortable using the term for two reasons. First of all, I studied Latin and celo (-are, -avi, -atum) means to hide or to conceal or to keep someone ignorant of something, and thus it stands to reason that celator would mean one who hides or conceals or someone who is keeping something from someone. I finally remembered to look up "celator" in the Oxford Latin Dictionary today which it, in fact, defines as someone who conceals. Secondly, having done some research on mint organization in Rome several years ago, I discovered that another term, signator, might have been used in Roman antiquity to describe die-engravers.

The collector magazine the Celator explains the term is an anglicized form of caelator, which does in fact mean an engraver or someone who works in bas-relief. A search through the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, however, does not appear to reveal any ancient contexts in which it was used specifically referencing the engraving of coin dies.

Unfortunately, much of our studies about minting activity and organization in ancient Rome have to be extrapolated from the study of the coins themselves and what few scant other sources remain. No literary texts survive telling us about mint officials and how they were named or organized, but we may know the location of the post-c. AD 80 mint (before it was housed in the Temple of Juno Moneta), which is often said to be the building now below the Church of San Clemente (e.g. Coarelli, F. 1993-2000, “Moneta, M. Caesaris,” in Steinby, M. (ed.) Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae. vol III. 280f. (Rome: Quasar)). One of the reasons why this building is postulated as the post-c. AD 80 mint is that some Trajanic inscriptions were found in the area naming some mint officials and workers (CIL vi, 42-44, 239, 791). RIC I² (pp. 14-15) has a good summary of the inscriptions and an interpretation of the "job titles" that are listed. Those that are named are:

  • optio et exactor auri argenti et aeris (CIL vi, 42-44, 239, 791) - a director or official in charge of minting; there was second optio, whom the authors of the revised RIC I believed to have been an assistant of some sort (RIC I², p. 14)
  • officinatores - those in charge of each individual officina or workshop (CIL vi, 43
  • signatores - die-engravers (CIL vi, 44)
  • suppostores - those who would have placed the flans on the anvil for striking (CIL vi, 44)
  • malleatores - hammer men or strikers (CIL vi, 44)
  • conductores flaturae - metal-melters or metal-refiners, perhaps the flan casters (CIL vi, 791)

Even the Oxford Latin Dictionary suggests that signator may have been the term used to reference a type of mint worker. Signator derives from signo (-are, -avi, -atum), which means to bear witness to the signing of a document, a process which in Roman times would have involved sealing. Sigillum, another related word, means seal. The striking of coinage provides an official "seal" on a planchet of metal making it official currency of the state. The term signator makes logical sense to have been a word commonly used to refer to a Roman coin die-engraver, a "sealer" in a sense. It also is the only word used for a die-engraver that can be corroborated by surviving evidence.

In scholarly literature, I recall having only seen "die-engraver" used to describe ancient die-engravers and perhaps this is the simplest way to go about referring to these people. If a Latin term is to be insisted upon, I would prefer signator since it is the only term used for a die-engraver for which we have ancient evidence, coming from the above-discussed Trajanic inscriptions. Caelator is a somewhat accurate term in that it means "engraver," someone who could have worked in all sorts of metalwork, but this is a more generalized term and one for which we do not have direct evidence that suggests it would have conveyed "die-engraver" in the same way that signator would have. Celator is a corrupted form of caelator frequently used by ancient coin enthusiasts. Indeed, many other numismatic terms have been anglicized such as sestertius, which is sometimes called a "sesterce." The problem with using celator in lieu of caelator, however, is that celator is also Latin word that has a very different meaning. Of all the potential Latin terms to use signator would be the most precise and accurate. I think I am going to stick to "die-engraver" though.

Thoughts? Discussion?

(Plan of the structure beneath S. Clemente (After Claridge 1998. Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 285).

Friday, January 30, 2009

Disaster in Germany: The Royal Collection of Hannover for Sale!!!

The following message was forwarded to me by a French colleague:

Disaster in Germany: The Royal Collection of Hannover for sale !!!

In 1983 the coin collection of the Kings of Hannover was bought by the Deutsche Bank, who now plans to sell it to a coin dealer. The "Niedersächsisches Münzkabinett der Deutschen Bank" is one the most important feudal collections in Germany and one of the 25 most important collections in Europe. It was managed in close cooperation with the "Landesmuseum Hannover"and became one of the important numismatic institutions in Europe. It is well known for its exhibitions and publications. The head of the coin cabinet, Dr. Reiner Cunz, is chairman of the German Numismatic Commission, vice president of the International Committee of Money and Banking Museums ICOMON, board member of the German Numismatic Society, member of the Brunswik Academy of Sciences and other academic societies.

A wave with letters of solidarity was sent to leading politicians in Germany, such as Prime Minister Christian Wulff (Hannover) and Bundeskulturminister Bernd Neumann (Berlin) and to the CEO of the Deutsche Bank, Josef Ackermann (Frankfurt).

This is truly disturbing news. Several museum collections are currently being sold off on account of the recession and have been in the news recently, stirring much controversy. These decisions are often made by administrators and businessmen who are only concerned about the bottom line and willing to cut things like art collections, academic programs, and research positions.

The sale of this important numismatic collection would be a great loss to numismatic scholarship. It should not be simply be divided up among bidders. I encourage all readers to send letters to those responsible for the decision to sell the collection and to the named German politicians. Dr. Lucia Travaini (Milan/Rome) has a page on her website, about the affair (click on 'Appello urgente per la collezione numismatica di Hannover,'
which then takes you to a page in English with further links). You can also read her letter online.

FYI: her short anecdote about the coins from Rome that Mussolini asked to be set aside to be melted are indeed the coins finds from Rome that Prof. Dr. Maria R.-Alföldi and other numismatists at Frankfurt later identified and catalogued. The finds still await publication for various reason, though Prof. Dr. von Kaenel and Prof. Dr. R.-Alföldi have made the unpublished list available to several researchers who have already demonstrated the great value of this resource in their published works. These particular coin finds, which were almost lost due to the whims of a politician, are the most important corpus of coin finds from the capital of the Roman Empire.

It would indeed be a great scholarly loss for another old collection to be sold off as Deutsche Bank simply seeks to make up for losses, unconcerned or uninformed about the educational and scholarly value of the collection they wish to sell.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Memory in Greek and Roman Coins: Call for Papers

Bill Metcalf has circulated the Call for Papers for a organized session on "Memory in Greek and Roman Coins" at the 111th AIA/APA Joint Annual Meeting in January 2010. The session is sponsored by the Friends of Numismatics:


The Friends of Numismatics invite paper submissions for the 2010 AIA/APA annual meetings in Orange County (Anaheim), CA, on the topic of memory. How do coin types transmit, record, and alter memory? And to what purpose? How accurate is their historical transmission of places, events, and people? How do they portray illustrious men and women of the past? Are foundation legends and founding heroes an expression of memory?

How do Hellenistic rulers, Roman Republican moneyers, or Roman emperors use portraits and divinization as self-representation? Why and how did Trajan "restore" so many denarial types of the Roman Republic? Why did Titus commemorate and "restore" the images of the "good" emperors? The negation of memory, damnatio memoriae, could be just as powerful a tool for political propaganda.

Please send abstracts of a maximum of 250 words to Jane Miller, Yale University Art Gallery, P. O. Box 208271, New Haven, CT 06520-8271 (<>) by February 15, 2009. Submissions will be evaluated anonymously by at least two reviewers. All persons who submit abstracts must be APA members in good standing.

'Import Restrictions Imposed on Certain Archaeological Material from China'

It was just announced today that U.S. State Department has decided to act on a request for import restrictions on certain archaeological materials from China.

The report, apparently published today, "Import Restrictions Imposed on Certain Archaeological Material from China" is available online and details the scope of the import restrictions and the objects that are covered. Pertinent to the primary subject of this website - numismatics - one notes that the request for import restrictions made in 2005, which included ancient Chinese coins, has been controversial and particularly opposed by American ancient coin dealers and many collectors. Ancient Chinese coins are covered in the text of the agreement:
3. Coins.

a. Zhou Media of Exchange and Tool-shaped Coins: Early media of
exchange include bronze spades, bronze knives, and cowrie shells.
During the 6th century BC, flat, simplified, and standardized cast
bronze versions of spades appear and these constitute China's first
coins. Other coin shapes appear in bronze including knives and cowrie
shells. These early coins may bear inscriptions.

b. Later, tool-shaped coins began to be replaced by disc-shaped
ones which are also cast in bronze and marked with inscriptions. These
coins have a central round or square hole.

c. Qin: In the reign of Qin Shi Huangdi (221-210 BC) the square-
holed round coins become the norm. The new Qin coin is inscribed simply
with its weight, expressed in two Chinese characters ban liang. These
are written in small seal script and are placed symmetrically to the
right and left of the central hole.

d. Han through Sui: Inscriptions become longer, and may indicate
that inscribed object is a coin, its value in relation to other coins,
or its size. Later, the period of issue, name of the mint, and numerals
representing dates may also appear on obverse or reverse. A new script,
clerical (lishu), comes into use in the Jin.

e. Tang: The clerical script becomes the norm until 959, when coins
with regular script (kaishu) also begin to be issued.

Another Antiquities Dealer Selling Egyptian Archaeological Goods is Arrested

Relevant to my previous post ("Italy Returns Thousands of Looted Coins to Bulgaria: Is there a Connection to Past Criminal Activities") about ancient coins and antiquities smuggled on a large scale to Western nations out of Bulgaria to supply the antiquities and ancient coin market, it has just been announced that a well-known antiquities dealer who has sold undocumented antiquities from a variety of countries and regions was recently arrested in Bulgaria, after eluding authorities. In 2004, he was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in Egypt for illegally selling Egyptian antiquities. Like Eastern European countries, the cultural heritage of Middle Eastern nations such as Egypt are at great risk to looters and smugglers. Zahi Hawass, of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, has spoken about the case.

See B. Helmy, "Interpol Arrests Antiquities Smuggler," Daily News, Jan. 15, 2009.

David Gill and Paul Barford have already made some comments on the arrest:

D.W.J. Gill, "A Dealer, Interpol and Sofia Airport," Looting Matters, Jan. 15, 2009.

P. Barford, "Arrest of Antiquities Dealer," Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues. Jan. 15, 2009

Also of relevance, see discussion of the recent arrest of an Australian antiquities dealer who was selling and smuggling Egyptian antiquities:

D.W.J. Gill, "Australian Antiquities Dealer Arrested in Egypt," Looting Matters, Jan. 3, 2009.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Italy Returns Thousands of Looted Coins to Bulgaria: Is there a Connection to Past Criminal Activities?

On Friday, 9 January 2009, the SofiaEcho reported that about 3,800 coins smuggled into Verona, Italy from Bulgaria were seized in 2005 and will be soon returned to their country of origin. Four Bulgarians were detained in Verona and have been deported; they are expected to be tried according to the law. The report also states that the coins may have been smuggled by the same gang that robbed the Veliko Turnovo museum in 2006. The full text of the article reads:

"Bulgaria will receive back from Italy close to 3800 antique coins and other archaeological objects, smuggled into the country in 2005, Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the National History Museum said, quoted by Bulgarian language Sega daily on January 9 2009.

The significant part of the valuables consists of silver and bronze Roman and Byzantine coins, which experts have valued at around 35000 euro, Sega daily said.

Four Bulgarians have been detained in Verona, Italy, for trying to sell the objects. They have been deported to Bulgaria and will be tried in accordance with local legislature.

Dimitrov has said that the authorities suspect that the coins could have been smuggled out of the country by the same criminal group that committed the robbery at the Veliko Turnovo museum in February 2006.

At that time more than 10 000 golden, silver and bronze coins were stolen from the museum's numismatic fund. Among them were valuable coins dating back to the time of Alexander the Great. At the time police said that the robbery had been very well planned and that an insider might have helped."

The report is significant for a number of reasons. First of all it highlights the fact that Bulgaria continues to be a major source of ancient coins for the black market in ancient coins and antiquities and is a major supplier to indiscriminate dealers and collectors in Europe and North America. See some previous comments in my posts on "The Illicit Antiquities Trade in Bulgaria," "Der Handel mit antiken Münzen. Ausmaß and Netzwerke (The Trade in Ancient Coins: Scale and Networks)," "Archaeology Magazine's 'Under Threat' List Includes Bulgaria," and especially see my lecture "The Ancient Coin Trade in the USA: Scale and Structure" as well as Center for the Study of Democracy's 2007 report on Organized Crime in Bulgaria: Markets and Trends (Chapter 5, pp. 177-202, The Antiquities Trade - Dealers, Traffickers, and Connoisseurs). Secondly, it indicates that authorities suspect this incident may well be related to a previous robbery in which ancient coins were stolen from a Bulgarian museum, though the article from SofiaEcho does not name any specific suspects.

It is well known that Bulgaria, which forbids the unlicensed and unscientific excavation of antiquities and their export, is a major source for western markets. The report on Organized Crime in Bulgaria, cited with a link above, estimates that between 30 and 50 Bulgarian nationals living in Western Europe and the United States actively arrange for the shipment of mass quantities of these coins to market nations. Any collector, dealer, or scholar working with the ancient coin trade will also recognize that many of the bulk suppliers of ancient coins are Bulgarian. These "wholesalers" sell fresh supplies of ancient coins to both other dealers and collectors. Higher quality coins will be sold wholesale to other dealers while "cheaper" or more "common" material that is less valued by the market will be disposed of in bulk lots directly to collectors via eBay or VCoins. One commonly sees packages of a thousand or more "uncelaned coins" on places like eBay. It is not a very big secret. To some degree corruption in Bulgaria allows looters and smugglers to operate with relative impunity.

In 1999, Frankfurt customs officials intercepted a shipment of 60kg of ancient coins from Bulgaria, bound for a New York airport and ultimately to a New Jersey address, which had been falsely declared. Scholarly numismatists were called in to examine the shipment which contained about 20,000 coins. Some of the coins had been partially cleaned already and had been divided up according to their relative market value, with smaller and more common coins left dirtier. Research by these numismatists indicated that only a small fraction of this particular shipment would have sold for over €100,000 in the auction market. Investigation by Frankfurt customs officials showed that in the previous weeks and months the individual in question shipped approximately one metric ton (literally) of material through Frankfurt airport to the United States before this parcel was inspected. The individual in question is a known supplier and dealer of ancient coins in the United States.

One metric ton would be about 350,000 ancient coins. To put this in perspective the largest scholarly archive of ancient coin finds, Fundmünzen der römischen Zeit in Deutschland, only inventories around 300,000 to 350,000 coins. These inventories have been published regularly since 1960 and represents the full time work of several scholars who inventory finds from old and new excavations, casual finds, hoards, and local collections. Essentially the individual in question smuggled as much in a very short amount of time as nearly 50 years of full time work cataloguing hundreds of archaeological and historically singificant sites in Germany. But of course, gangs of metal detectorists move much more quickly than archaeologists. Even the largest public collections of ancient coins in the world (e.g. the British Museum and the American Numismatic Society) contain around c. 350,000 coins. The level of destruction represented by this one wholesaler is ghastly. The individual in question is politically connected; in 1999 he was the brother of the Bulgarian Prosecutor General - who himself later faced corruption charges - and even though he had been arrested for antiquities crimes before he was never charged in this crime. For more discussion of these shipments in 1999, see R. Dietrich, "Cultural Property on the Move - Legally, Illegally," International Journal of Cultural Property 11.2 (2002) 294-304. Dietrich's article does not name the shipper/dealer, but refers to him as "Mr. B." which I will use henceforth.

Mr. B. is a known supplier of ancient coins to other dealers and he also sells in bulk via eBay. He is still very active today. His eBay storefronts include "Silenos" (10,431 positive feedback as of 22 April 2008 - each positive feedback represents a transaction with a unique buyer, i.e. at least 10,431 different people have purchased from him via eBay) and "S*P*Q*R" (3,019 feeback as of 22 April 2008). The dealership of "Silenos Coins" is also listed as coming soon on

In 1999, shortly after the shipments were coming through Frankfurt, the Moneta-L discussion list referenced his activity, with some swooning over the booty he offered them. Mere months after the Frankfurt shipments, one of Mr. B.'s friends wrote on the Moneta-L list:

"List members,
There is a new source of uncleaned ancient coins and nice quality antiquities on eBay, to which I invite your attention. The "User ID" you use to do a "Seller" search on eBay is: "Silenos." This dealer is an old friend of mine, and has been wholesaling to the leading dealers in America and Europe for years, and has decided to enter the retail market on selected items. I personally vouch for the honesty and fairness of this individual. Give this company a try. You will be delighted!"

Another dealer then responds:

"Would that be [Mr. B.]?"

The friend who announced the "new source" replies to the dealer:

"Yes, but PLEASE don't advertise it. He wants to keep a low profile in dealing with the public. He is uncomfortable in doing so, and has hired a young lady to be the 'face to the public' on sales."

And then an unsuspecting collector tells us about one method this wholesaler was using to divide up the coins which were spirited out of Bulgaria in contravention to both law and ethics:

"I'd like to hear the answer to this onlist. [Mr. B.] had a booth at CICF [Chicago International Coin Fair] this year for the first time, and I had a chance to meet him. He wasn't retailing at his booth, he was selling strictly wholesale. I found myself drawn to his bags of late Roman bronze and bought them the only way I could - a handful at a time. Very pretty stuff. By mid afternoon of the second day of the show all his LRB were gone. If he is going retail, I hope he keeps one foot in the wholesale door. Maybe you can convince him he doesn't need the customer relations hassles that come with retail."

It is clear that the mass quantities of coins smuggled out of Bulgaria through Frankfurt airport to the United States by Mr. B. were sold directly to other dealers and collectors. But what does this have do with the recent announcement about the coins seized in Verona? Nothing is certain since the article by SofiaEcho does not name the individuals involved, but the report did tell us that "...the authorities suspect that the coins could have been smuggled out of the country by the same criminal group that committed the robbery at the Veliko Turnovo museum in February 2006." In addition to Dietrich's article, the above cited and linked report on Organized Crime in Bulgaria: Markets and Trends discusses the coins that Mr. B. sent through Frankfurt airport in March 1999 (but note it states his address has been in Florida for several years; this may be an error since his address at the time of the 1999 shipment was in New Jersey and appears to have been such even later). The report indicates further that Mr. B. may have been involved in the Veliko Turnovo museum case. Page 186 of the report provides a citation and states:

"The online news agency Mediapool announced that the name of [Mr. B.], who has been living in Florida for several years already, was found under an internet offer selling coins, supposedly part of those stolen in the notorious Veliko Tarnovo museum robbery."

Is Mr. B., who still acts as a supplier to other dealers and sells directly to collectors, involved with the case of the recent seizure of coins in Verona? It seems according to the report he was/is a suspect in the Veliko Tarnovo museum case and apparently authorities believe the recent seizure of coins in Verona is related.

Whatever the case, perhaps the most important question is whether or not dealers and collectors are really comfortable stocking their inventories and coin cabinets from wholesalers such as this who are brazenly violating international laws and unethically sponsoring the systematic destruction of our past and the knowledge that goes along with it. Greater concern for law, ethics, due diligence, and - above all - transparency is greatly needed.

(Photo from another news article about the return at StandArtNews, "Italy Returns Antique Tre[a]sure to Bulgaria," 22 December 2008)

Monday, January 12, 2009

The 110th AIA/APA Joint Annual Meeting Concludes: A Personal Reflection

Yesterday afternoon I returned from 2009 Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Philadelphia. Although a bit chaotic, the meeting was very productive. The chaotic bit refers to the fact that the AIA extended its academic program to three paper sessions per day rather than the normal two, and so there were many more sessions and lectures to choose from. The down side of this was that the sessions were scheduled tightly together with no great length of time between sessions and events. This also meant that lunch time committee meetings were not possible and thus committees were scheduled for early morning and evenings. Although the daily program was densely packed, the natural plus side was a greater variety of papers and speakers to hear from. Since this is the first time the AIA has experimented with extending its daily program, I expect there will be some fine tuning in future meetings.

My own experience at the AIA meeting bears no particular significance, but I will summarize it anyway for any readers who have never attended these meetings or who are unfamiliar with the myriad activities at the Annual Meeting.

Thursday, January 9, 2009.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon and checked into the conference hotel. As is typical at these incredibly large conferences (last year's meeting in Chicago saw over 3,000 participants including 1,100 active AIA members), I began recognizing colleagues from around the globe immediately. As I passed the bar on the way to the room with my garment case I saw several fellow doctoral candidates and M.A. students from the University of Missouri. It was good to see them since I have been away for the University for some time on account of my work in Frankfurt and I was pleasantly surprised to see others who had not initially planned on attending since they had also been conducting research abroad.

After settling in, I went upstairs to register and receive my name badge, AIA program, and AIA abstract book. Just behind registration was the exhibit hall, hosting dozens upon dozens of important academic presses, organizations, and other groups. Over the past several years that I have been going to these meetings, there has always been a good crowd around the Journal of Roman Archaeology's small booth and so I had never really stopped before. Additionally, I have subscribed to the journal since 2002 or 2003 and keep a close eye on their monograph series and so I keep up with what they produce. This year, however, there was no one standing at the booth (perhaps it was still early enough and a number of conference attendees had not yet arrived), located next to the exhibit hall's entrance and so I stopped. Dr. Laura Humphrey was operating the booth while Dr. John Humphrey was engaged in conversation nearby. It was a pleasure to meet and talk for a moment with Laura Humphrey, who recognized my name having sent my JRAs to the University of Missouri while I pay from Germany (I try to cut down on the weight I have to transport back and forth over the Atlantic). I expect that my JRA 2008 is in the department in Missouri somewhere and so I got to page through a copy of the one at the booth. It will probably be some time before Frankfurt University's JRA 2008 is accessioned and put on the shelf in the library.

I then proceeded towards the back of the exhibit hall while noting the location various academic presses that were exhibiting recent archaeological and historical monographs. I came to the booth by Strati-Concept and saw many of the field tools they had available. Field archaeologists go crazy seeing high quality forged trowels and spatulae, dental probes, and brushes; these are the tools of the trade. Of course, I already have some good basic tools for my own fieldwork (trowel, measuring sticks, brushes, etc.), but I was really drawn to their toolsets which include precision instruments such as small spatulae, dental instruments, and fine brushes, particularly their "Premium Vintage" precision archaeological toolset. At the past couple of sites I have worked, such precision instruments were not available or were in high demand, meaning that when they were needed we often had to improvise with things like wooden skewers. It would be useful to pick up a set like this for future work. However, I just recently finished working with the excavations at Yotvata as the staff numismatist and we are now preparing for the final publication and so I am not affiliated with another excavation at present. It would probably be wise to get the publications for Yotvata out of the way first and to finish off the Ph.D. before joining another excavation campaign. As the staff numismatist, I spent much/most of my time identifying the coins at the site 'laboratory,' but I did spend a good amount of time excavating in the field - some seasons I processed the coin finds too quickly! In 2005 when a hoard of Late Roman bronze coins was found in a stratified context I was on site and was able assist in the removal of the coins from the earth. Fortunately, we were able to wrangle dental tools away from another excavator for this. One of these sets would be useful for my future fieldwork, and hopefully future excavation of coin hoards, but in the end it was not sensible to buy one of these high quality sets right now.

I then walked along the back wall and came to the SAFE booth. I saw several familiar faces including that of Cindy Ho, Paul Kunkel, and Sarah Pickman. It had been a year since I had seen them, the last AIA meeting in Chicago, and it was good to catch up. Prof. Renfrew (link to Wikipedia article - caveat emptor) was also at the booth at this time and it was good to meet him and to speak to him for a few minutes. I had seen him before and heard his inspiring talk "The Dimensions of Prehistory," which he delivered at the Natural History Museum in Frankfurt on February 20, 2008. Many individuals focus on his work relevant to the antiquities trade, but aside from that Prof. Renfrew is a great theoretician and is a visionary in regard to archaeological method and theory and the role archaeology plays in society and understanding the past. His lecture in Frankfurt focused on prehistory, but certainly his observations had implications for the entire discipline.

After speaking with everyone at the SAFE booth, I went back down to the bar (always a hot spot at the meetings!) and joined my colleagues from the University of Missouri. My colleague from Frankfurt and the co-organizer of the colloquium to be held on Saturday, Stefan Krmnicek, was in Philadelphia staying with friends and so I called him to let him know where I was at so we could meet up. While I was there with my cohorts from Missouri, Fleur Kemmers from the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (our colloquium discussant) saw me and came over and shortly thereafter some of the other panelists followed: Nanouschka Myrberg (Stockholm), Ragnar Hedlund (Uppsala), and Georges Depeyrot (Paris). Georges, Fleur, Nanouschka, and Ragnar had already been in Philadelphia for a couple of days to see the sights and it seemed that they had an excellent and enjoyable time. I had learned from Nanouschka and Ragnar that it was their first time to visit the United States and so it was interesting to hear about their experiences and how certain things correlated with particular presuppositions they had about the United States from television and movies. It was interesting that Nanouschka commented on how the telephone and sirens sounded just like they did in movies and shows she had seen; I remember thinking the exact same thing when I traveled to Europe for the first time. I was pleased to hear that they found people in the United States, at least thus far, incredibly friendly. Of course they were astonished, but maybe a little intrigued, by some of our excesses such as 24-hour fast food restaurants, free refills, and the very large portions served at restaurants! Stefan soon joined us and we began making plans to take trollies over to the Opening Night Reception at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

While boarding the trollies I spotted Philip Kiernan, a numismatist whom I had met (and later drank with) at the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (TRAC) in Amsterdam in April 2008. At the time he was working in Heidelberg, Germany. Once we arrived at the museum, I was amazed by the extensive collection that the University of Pennsylvania had. The reception was held in the galleries and so it was nice for conference participants to have this opportunity to view the collection in such a relaxed atmosphere, though it was somewhat crowded. Although we all entered as a group with Philip, we soon broke apart to mingle as we began recognizing and seeing other colleagues. We had one ticket for any free drink, after that we had to pay. In the true spirit of the occasion, one of Stefan's colleagues, whom he had met while studying in Cambridge, recommended we use the ticket for a cocktail since that would be the most expensive drink. Sensible enough, though I must say it was a much stronger drink than I would have expected from a catered reception. The buffet was excellent as well: there was a bit of a middle eastern flair with hummus and falafel in addition to an impressive array of fresh vegetables and fruit. At the reception I also had the opportunity to talk to Sebastian Heath (American Numismatic Society, New York) and introduce him some of my European colleagues who had come over for the meeting. I first came to know Sebastian when I was at the ANS seminar in 2004. I had seen Sebastian busily darting about the conference hotel in the hours before the reception - as an Academic Trustee and also the new Vice President of Professional Responsibilities for the AIA, he stayed very busy at the meeting.

It was not too late after the reception, but I was exhausted and had go over an agenda for a 7:00 AM committee meeting the next day, and many of my European colleagues were still suffering from jetlag, and so we decided to call it a night.

Friday, January 10, 2009

Originally, I had booked a hotel room for myself. In previous years I had done the typical 'graduate student thing' whereby we share and split room costs four or five ways. This is very useful since we graduate students do not have any real money, just lots of debt and sometimes some credit. I decided to book my own room this time since I am usually rather busy (at least presenting a paper) and have found sharing a room often chaotic as night time festivities go into the wee hours of the night. I do not think I am prudish, I just cannot function on less than seven hours of sleep, let alone just three or four. However, my financial situation always seems to deteriorate towards the end of the fall semester and towards the end of the spring semester as student loan money runs out and so I opened up my reservation to two fellow graduate students from the University of Missouri, Tristan Barnes and Doug Underwood. We had a good time rooming together during the conference and did not really disturb each other coming and going, but I do hope that my alarm going off at 5:30 AM on Friday for the committee meeting did not jar them too much!

At 7:00 AM I had the AIA's Cultural Heritage Policy Committee meeting. Afterwards I made my way to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. I was happy to have had a brief moment to speak to Brian Rose again, who is naturally incredibly busy at these meetings as the AIA President.

Where I come from (West Texas), $10 to $20 is a lot of money for breakfast, but I had a full agenda for the day and did not want to brave the cold to find a local place. My cafe latté at the Marriot hotel restaurant cost about $5. They had an impressive breakfast buffet, but the price was around $20 and so I opted out. I saw eggs Benedict on the menu, a dish I first had in Columbia, Missouri at a restaurant that offered high quality and natural fresh foods (free trade and the like), and so I tried it. It was excellent, worth $12.50 for a little indulgence I must say.

Over breakfast, I read through my presentation which I was going to be giving for SAFE and made sure I had it all worked out. After breakfast I went to the exhibit hall and began going more systematically through the academic presses taking note of books I might wish to buy or see if we have them at the library in Frankfurt.

Shortly before 10:00 AM I ventured over to the SAFE booth to make sure everything was in order for my presentation. I gave a lecture entitled "The Ancient Coin Trade in the USA: Scale and Structure." That talk was based on a series of lectures I have been giving in Frankfurt and throughout Germany in the past year. As Paul Barford has already noted, the Hellenic Society for Law and Archaeology has put an English version of my German lectures online in addition to my peer-reviewed article in Frankfurter elektronische Rundschau zur Altertumskunde on "A Survey of the Material and Intellectual Consequences of Trading in Undocumented Ancient Coins: A Case Study on the North American Trade;" the latter is meant to serve as an introduction to the issues and as a starting point for future and forthcoming research on the coin trade while the lecture focused on how big the trade is and how it is supplied. The version of the text that is now on the Hellenic Society for Law and Archaeology's website is nearly identical to the presentation I made on Friday with only some minor changes, but that text is not accompanied by images. In the coming weeks my lecture will be put on SAFE's website along with the PowerPoint presentation.

In the small crowd around the booth, I saw Richard Buxton, another one of our panel participants, who was unable to meet with the rest of us the night before, and I met him immediately after the presentation and spoke with others who were interested in the issues and problems raised in the talk. One attendee explained to me a view of the trade from Canada and how she believes some masses of material are being imported directly into Canada and then spirited across the border into the United States, something worth looking into more. Accordingly, from her explanation it seems there may be more loopholes in Canadian law with regard to the protection of cultural heritage and archaeological goods than in the United States. After the presentation, I had arranged some meetings with colleagues that occupied me until the early afternoon.

I was able to catch the end of Blythe Bowman's organized session on "Crimes Against Culture: Perspectives on Archaeological Site Looting and Illicit Antiquities Trade." The room was packed - I had to stand in the back. I recognized a number of important personalities in the field in the front rows and also saw a few of our panel participants attending the session. At the end of the session, Larry Rothfield and I glimpsed one another and exchanged greetings as he was on his way to another event or session. I went back to the exhibit hall to snoop around some more at the book stalls and then headed over to the SAFE booth to say hello to Blythe, who had just finished her session, and Jessica Dietzler whom I had seen with her.

Robert Wittman, recently retired from the FBI, then gave an illuminating presentation at the SAFE booth about some FBI operations and the law with regard to illicit antiquities. I spoke with him some afterward and there were some other students who spoke with him, interested in joining the FBI with the hopes of moving into the unit that works on art crimes. Apparently, the FBI is hiring some 850 agents and even more support staff this year.

I then went to Elizabeth Gilgan's organized session on "Selling Our Past to the Highest Bidder: A Global Snapshot of Antiquities in the Art Market" and saw the final four presentations. I particularly enjoyed Morag Kersel's "Destroying the Holy Land: Archaeological Site Destruction and the Lure of the Relic." Her presentation examined the "licit trade" in antiquities in Israel and its relationship to the illicit excavation of antiquities. Anyone interested in this will find a description of the current situation in her essay "From the Ground to the Buyer: A Market Analysis of the Trade in Antiquities," in N. Brodie, M.M. Kersel, C. Luke, and K.W. Tubb (eds.) Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, and the Antiquities Trade. (Gainesville 2006), 188-205. Essentially, only licensed dealers may sell antiquities in Israel and they may only sell antiquities that have been registered prior to 1978. Dealers provide buyers with a certificate of authenticity, but they are only obliged to offer an export permit if the buyer asks for it. If the buyer does so, a form with the registration number is faxed to the Israel Antiquities Authority who checks the registry number and then issues and export license. These registry numbers are therefore only used when an export license is issued and since buyers most often do not know they ought to ask for an export license, dealers regularly recycle registry numbers for similar objects since they are not routinely checked or policed. For example, a dealer might sell hundreds of Roman oil lamps using the same registry number over and over again until a buyer asks for an export license and that particular number cannot be used again. Antiquities are essentially laundered and given false provenances in Israel's "licit market." Morag documented this activity through observations and interviews in antiquities shops in Jerusalem. One of her case studies included following the activities of one shoe shiner who imports coins smuggled from the Palestinian territories and Jordan who sells these recently looted coins to tourists on the streets and who also supplies local dealers with higher quality coins. Morag's observations are a strong counterargument to those who tout the Israeli situation as a model.

At 5:00 PM my colleagues from the panel and I went to the Friends of Numismatics reception at the adjacent hotel and were reacquainted with the North American group of numismatists who frequent the AIA/APA meetings. Afterwards we met up with a group of Australian numismatists and archaeologists and all went to an excellent dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. After that many of us went to the hotel bar for a cocktail or two before bed. While leaving the table to search after a waitress, I ran into Cindy and Paul from SAFE and Donny George, the former director of the Iraq Museum. I first met Donny at the last AIA meeting when SAFE honored him and Neil Brodie with the 2008 SAFE Beacon Award and I was surprised he remembered me. I joined them for 10 or 15 minutes and then introduced them to the remaining panel participants at our table. It was very exciting to discuss the coin trade with Donny and to hear about his perspectives and experiences with coins in Iraq. He had some interesting stories about looting in Iraq as well as remarkable Islamic coin finds there.

Saturday, January 11, 2009

Famished I again ventured down to the overpriced hotel restaurant considering whether or not I would have the eggs Benedict again. Good food is something I sometimes enjoy too well. The waitress came over and immediately recommended the eggs Benedict. I told her I had it the morning before and really enjoyed it and was thinking about having it again, but then she pointed out to me that they had a crab cakes Benedict which substituted the English muffin component for crab cakes. It sounded good and was very good, but I think I prefer the traditional eggs Benedict. Over breakfast I went through my introductory comments for our session which would be that afternoon.

After that I went to the SAFE booth for Neil Brodie's talk on the market in Iraqi antiquities which he surveyed over the past 20 years. He focused on the internet trade in recently looted/surfaced Iraqi antiquities. It never ceases to amaze me how brazen certain antiquities dealers can be and how destructive their indiscriminate activities are. He showed a number of inscribed cuneiform bricks from a temple that had clearly been cut down by looters and exhibited marks from circular saw blades. Clearly they are easier to smuggle and easier to display when they are smaller.

Late that morning I went to the session on "Patrons and Building in the Roman Empire" (aside from numismatics, Roman topography and architecture as well imperial building programs are studies which interest me). I was especially interested in hearing Elisha Dumser's paper on "Diocletian and Maximian's Architectural Patronage in Rome." I first met Elisha when I was at the British School in Rome in the summer of 2003. She and her dissertation supervisor, Lothar Haselberger, came to Rome that summer for the book presentation for Mapping Augustan Rome which they gave at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Rome. Since then we have usually talked at AIA meetings and I have regularly attended her presentations. Her research has often centered around Maxentius' building program, which was the topic of her dissertation. Our scholarly convergence comes through our mutual interest in architectural coin types. My dissertation is on the semantic value and meaning of architectural coin types in the Roman world and she has focused her numismatic inquiries on Late Roman architectural coin types. One very good article of hers that I admire is E.A. Dumser, "The AETERNAE MEMORIAE coinage of Maxentius: an issue of symbolic intent," in L. Haselberger and J. Humphrey (eds.), Imaging Ancient Rome: Documentation - Visualization - Imagination (Portsmouth 2006, JRA Supplement 61), 106-119.

After the second paper in the session, I ducked out and went down to the Starbucks for an iced mocha and to go over my introductory comments one more time before our session. Shortly after I ordered and sat down I could tell that the midday sessions were over on account of the crowds swarming into the coffee shop. Georges Depeyrot came through and sat down and so we talked for a while before we had to go up to our session.

Our session, "Contextual Numismatics: New Perspectives and Interdisciplinary Methodologies," went very well. The only complaint I had was that during the second paper by Nanouschka, there was an incredible disturbing noise coming from an adjacent room where a theatrical session by the APA was evidently taking place. Overall I think the papers and approaches presented in the session were well received. There was some good discussion at the end of Richard Buxton's paper, which offered some very new interpretations on the meaning of chisel cuts on Athenian owls in the Near East. At the end of the colloquium Fleur Kemmers, our discussant, provided some very well articulated comments on the papers and the issues they brought up. She offered a penetrating vision of where numismatic studies needs to mature (that is my wording) as it continues to define itself as a discipline. I was very happy with our colloquium and our panelists and would like to thank all of them again for their work and for sharing their research with us at the AIA. Considering that our session was competing with hot topics like the "Archaeology of Battle" and "Houses of Ill Repute: The Archaeology of Brothels, Houses, and Taverns in the Greek World," we had a very good turnout of attendees. It was nice to know that, for some, numismatics still won out over sex and violence.

After our session I went to the exhibit hall and swung by the SAFE booth and helped them for a while until the booth shutdown and then I took some materials upstairs as they were preparing for the 2009 SAFE Beacon Award Reception for Prof. Colin Renfrew. Stefan, Fleur, and I attended the reception. The first half an hour or so was for drinks and mingling. I again talked some more with Donny until the introduction for Colin Renfrew began. Renfrew's talk, "Combating the Illicit Antiquities Trade: the 1970 Rule as a Turning Point (or How the Metropolitan Museum lags behind the Getty)" was a forceful indictment against unethical acquisitions policies by public institutions. Many times he pointed to the value and accomplishments of SAFE and the work of scholars who have brought the illicit antiquities trade to public scrutiny. The importance of Renfrew's advocacy and that of SAFE is highlighted by events surrounding the announcement of Renfrew's lecture. In days before his lecture, the Metropolitan Museum of Art finally decided to publicize its decision to abide by the recent policy of AAMD that it apparently made this summer. It will be interesting to see if the Met will use the strict 1970 Rule or if it will exploit the wiggle-room in the AAMD policy to continue buying looted art. I believe that SAFE will be putting a summary of Renfrew's lecture online in the near future. After his talk, Cindy Ho presented Colin Renfrew with the 2009 SAFE Beacon Award.

After the reception Stefan, Fleur, and I met up with our fellow panel participants, and our new Australian friends, at a local Thai restaurant for a celebratory dinner after our panel. I had the House Special Squid, which was excellent; I wish I could remember the name of the place. We then visited some of the different receptions that evening before heading off to bed.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I got up early again on Sunday morning to stand in line for the opening of the exhibit hall. This is a tradition at the AIA/APA meetings since many of the exhibiting academic presses will drastically slash prices (50% or more) on the books they have brought with them. The line gets very long and when the doors open, graduate students and seasoned professors alike sprint towards the booths to get their hands on books they have staked out in the days before and save some money. Two of the biggest academic presses, Cambridge and Oxford, are often the most popular destinations.

In this free-for-all I managed to score six titles, probably spending more money than I should have:

G. S. Aldrete, Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome (Baltimore 2007) - while looking for other books, I saw the author whom I had recognized from a very intriguing lecture about the distribution of certain building types in relation to the regular area for the Tiber's flooding in the Campus Martius in Rome at an earlier AIA meeting. Remembering how innovative and interesting that paper was I asked him if he had published it as an article or anything and he told me that he actually had published a monograph about Tiber floods and directed me to the Johns Hopkins University Press booth to look at the book. It was discounted 50%.
O. Hekster, G. de Kleijn, and D. Slootjes (eds.), Crises and the Roman Empire. Proceedings of the Seventh Workshop of the International Network Impact of Empire (Nijmegen, June 20-24, 2006) (Leiden and Boston 2007, Impact of Empire 7) - discounted 50%; nevertheless, books from Brill academic press are still expensive. The discounted price was $89.50 and list price is $179.

N. Lenski (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine (Cambridge 2006) - all Cambridge hardcovers were discounted to $20 and paperbacks to $10.

F. Millar, The Crowd in the Rome in the Late Republic (Ann Arbor 2002) - discounted 50%.

D.S. Potter and D.J. Mattingly (eds.), Life, Death, and Entertainment in the Roman Empire (Ann Arbor 1999) - discounted 50%.

C. Renfrew and P. Bahn (eds.), Archaeology: the Key Concepts (London and New York 2005) - this was discounted 20%. If I had paid greater attention earlier I would have realized that this was the same price throughout the conference; Routledge did not offer any drastic discounts on the last day.

After scoring some good deals and exceeding my book budget, I decided to spend the rest of the morning doing a bit of sight seeing since I really had not been able to leave the hotel for all of my other obligations. I went down to see the Liberty Bell first of all. The image at the top of this post is that of a blind man I saw who was allowed to go up and touch it; personally, I found this one of the most moving moments while being in Philadelphia. I then went to Independence Hall, the place where our nation was born.

After visiting these, I went back to the hotel and said goodbye to various colleagues before packing and going off to the airport. I did not have a Philly cheesesteak sandwich while in the city and so I tracked down a restaurant in the airport and had one; it was very good.

On the flight back to Texas I read a few essays in the book on the age of Constantine that I had purchased and worked my way through much of the book by Renfrew and Bahn that I had also bought. This particular volume is meant to summarize certain theories or concepts present in archaeology in a way that is accessible. Those who have studied archaeological theory know how difficult it can be. I found several of the entries to be rather interesting, especially those relating to Cognitive Archaeology and the recreation of the thought processes and mental patterns of ancient peoples. I think this means I am now going to have pick up C. Renfrew and P. Bahn (eds.), Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (London 2004, 4th edn.), which I have consulted before but not read in any great detail, and C. Renfrew, Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind (New York 2008). I just brought back a big stack of books from Germany to store in the U.S. and so I will have to be vigilant about what I take back with me to read since I should limit my weight lest it cost me severely to ship everything back when I leave Frankfurt.

I had a very good time at the AIA meeting and it was great to see so many colleagues and friends again and to meet new ones for the first time. If you have not attended an AIA meeting before and have read all the way through this, you will understand that the AIA meetings serve as more than a venue for academic papers and sessions - they are places where we get together socially with our colleagues, many of whom we can see only once a year. When I went to my first AIA meeting, my former M.A. supervisor at the University of Reading (UK), Janet Delaine (now at Oxford), told me that in Britain they seem take for granted that they see their colleagues rather frequently. All they must do is hop on a train for a short distance to see one another or attend a conference. In the United States we are much more spread out. I look forward to next year's meeting as I tentatively plan on attending.

(Photo by N. Elkins, A Blind Man Touching the Liberty Bell, Sunday, January 11, 2009).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cultural Heritage Issues at the 2009 AIA Meeting in Philadelphia

In addition the regular archaeology paper sessions and numismatic colloquia I mentioned before, the AIA/APA Joint Annual Meeting in Philadelphia next week will also be host to a number of sessions and events addressing cultural heritage issues:

AIA President C. Brian Rose's Plenary Session: Cultural Property and Armed Conflict. Friday, January 9, 7:00-8:30 p.m."Cultural Property and the Role of U.S. Army Civil Affairs," Major General David A. Morris, Commanding General, United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, and "The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict," Karl von Habsburg, Vice President, Austrian Society for the Protection of Cultural Property

A colloquium organized by Blythe A. Bowman, a SAFE volunteer, will occur on Friday, January 9 — 11:15 to 1:15 pm. Session: 2H: "Crimes Against Culture: Perspectives on Archeological Site Looting and Illicit Antiquities Trade" (Click hyperlink for paper titles and abstracts).

A colloquium organized by Elizabeth Gilgan, a SAFE board member, will take place on Friday, January 9 - 1:30 to 4:30 pm. Session: 3E: "Selling Our Past to the Highest Bidder: A Global Snapshot of Antiquities in the Art Market" (click hyperlink for paper titles and abstracts).

A workshop organized by Eric Powell, a SAFE board member, will be conducted on Saturday January 10, 1:30 to 4:30 pm. Session 6E: "Legal Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage: National and International Perspectives in Light of the 'Black Swan' Case" (Click hyperlink for a list of participants).

Another colloquium session which may be relevant (organized by Eric Cline and C. Brian Rose) is Session 8D: "Taking Back Our Field: Archaeology and the Media" on Sunday, January 11, 11:15 - am - 1:15 pm (Click hyperlink for paper titles and abstracts).

In addition to these lectures, the public advocacy group SAFE will again be exhibiting at the AIA. Some of SAFE's board members and volunteers organized or will be participating in the above panels. The highlight of SAFE's presence at the meeting will take place on Saturday when the group awards Prof. Colin Renfrew with the 2009 SAFE Beacon Award. Prof. Renfrew will give a lecture entitled "Combating the Illicit Antiquities Trade: the 1970 Rule as a Turning Point (or How the Metropolitan Museum lags behind the Getty)."

At SAFE's booth, volunteers will be on hand to discuss SAFE's activities and mission with conference participants and will also host film screenings and speakers. Speakers who have been invited to give presentations at the SAFE booth include Robert K. Wittman, Dr. Neil Brodie, and Nathan T. Elkins. The schedule and title of these presentations has not been posted by SAFE, but I can say my talk will take place Friday at 10 am and will be entitled "The Trade in Ancient Coins in the USA: Scale and Structure," which is based on some of the talks I have been giving in Germany (e.g. here and here).

As usual the AIA meeting will have a strong showing of regular academic papers and this year it appears there will be abundant opportunity for participants to discuss and learn about current and pressing cultural heritage issues.