Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria in Bulgaria: An Update

A while back I called attention to the appeal by the Bulgarian Archaeological Association for funds to protect and preserve Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria which - like so many sites in Bulgaria - is being targeted by treasure hunters and destroyed.

Today I received an email which appears to have been sent out to all of those who made a donation to the preservation effort and which gave a brief report on the way some of the donations are being used:

[The] Bulgarian Archaeological Association is glad to inform you that thanks to your financial support a short term archaeological expedition at the territory of Colonia Ulpia Traiana Ratiaria was realized. Several architectural and epigraphical monuments were discovered and saved for the archaeological science. Please follow the link to find our [report]:

We will highly appreciate your further help and we kindly ask you to forward the following petition to other friends and supporters:

Thank you in advance,

Bulgarian Archaeological Association

21 Tsarigradsko shosse blv. 1124 Sofia Bulgaria
+ 359 (0) 878940223
While it is great that several individuals and groups donated to the preservation efforts, more is needed and I would urge anyone who can and who has an interest in preserving Bulgaria's heritage to sign the petition and donate.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Roman Architectural Coin Types and "Audience Targeting": A Preview of the Talk in Glasgow

At the XIVth International Numismatic Congress, I will have the opportunity to speak about an important facet of my dissertation on Roman architectural coin types. The presentation in Glasgow is entitled "Interpreting Architectural Coin Types from Recorded Contexts: The Flavian and Trajanic Periods" and takes place Wednesday morning in the Roman session "Empire - Coin Types (1st-2nd Century)," a session which promises many intriguing topics from colleagues.

In recent years, studies of coin supply and coin circulation rooted in archaeological evidence have attested that Roman bronze coinage was sometimes supplied to certain regions or populations based on the designs that those coins bore. This has important ramifications for the study of Roman coin images, Imperial ideology, and even Roman art as a whole.

In light of these developments in the fields of numismatics and archaeology, I decided to consider the regional distribution of architectural coin types in my dissertation from the Flavian and Trajanic periods since the Flavians and Trajan in particular produced a number of varied architectural coin types.

In Glasgow I will summarize my methodology and the results of this case study. There are, in my view, some interesting results with regard to the distribution and comparative frequencies of denotative types (architectural representations celebrating the construction or reconstruction of a specific monument in Rome) and connotative types (architectural designs evoking broader ideals or historical events other than construction).

For obvious reasons I do not wish to publicize the full results of this unpublished research, but I would like to show one of my pie charts (illustrated) which represents the regional distribution of bronze coin types celebrating construction of the Aqua Traiana for Rome that is one of the more convincing examples my research has yielded for an architectural coin type to targeted the city of Rome. The chart has been adjusted to account for the varying sizes of the corpora from the five main sample areas (Rome, Veneto, Germany, Austria, and Slovenia).

I would appreciate comments and discussion either in advance of or after the XIVth INC.

This post is protected by a Creative Commons 3.0 License.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Coins in Context" at the International Numismatic Congress

Regular readers of this website will know that I have been making a series of posts discussing the new book Coins in Context I: New Perspectives for the Interpretation of Coin Finds, which was based on a colloquium held at Frankfurt University in the fall of 2007. The book was entitled Coins in Context I in order to indicate that research in this direction should continue and that future volumes may be produced.

Two contributors to the book, Fleur Kemmers (Nijmegen) and Nanouschka Myrberg (Stockholm) have organized a round table session on "Coins in Context" to take place at the XIVth International Numismatic Congress in Glasgow. The summary of the round table session reads as follows:
Coins are an integral part of the archaeological record. Yet, the coins are often separated from the other finds and brought to a specialist, who will treat them as a separate entity regardless of their find context. The archaeologist accepts the list of coins and lacks the knowledge to evaluate its full meaning. Thus a lot of the information of coin finds is wasted. Yet a close study of the context in which coins have been found might not only reveal a lot of information on the archaeological site, but perhaps even more so on the coins themselves and how they functioned in the past. By only using coins to establish the chronology of a site, the full potential of this particular category of archaeological sources is not considered.

When archaeology and numismatics are deliberately combined, the great potential of this approach will present immediate results. To study coins in their various contexts has greatly contributed to our understanding of the functions, use, loss and deposition patterns of coins, of the way and pace in which coins were brought into a society, of the perceptions surrounding the coins themselves and their deposition, and more. Such studies are not only of interest to numismatists, but just as much to archaeologists and historians. Nevertheless, this kind of research is still in its infancy, and often regarded with suspicion by numismatists and archaeologists alike.

The phrase ‘context’ is here intended as the archaeological feature (pit, posthole, well, etc.) on a site in which a coin is found, but also as its functional context (Iron Age religious site, late Roman villa, Merovingian cemetery, etc.) or its ideological or historical context as a context of thought and history. The research paradigm in which the coin is treated also constitutes a context, which may well have a decisive impact on the interpretation of the coin and its finding circumstances. Since the approaches of a numismatist, an archaeologist or an art historian are surely quite diverse, their research objectives will vary accordingly.

The aim of the roundtable session is to investigate innovative methods and research questions relating to the coins as objects with their own distinctive cultural biographies, ranging from the production context to the depositional context. We would like to discuss the topic in a broad chronological (600 BC – AD 1750) and geographical scope. However, we expect proposals to go beyond particularities of a period or region, and rather focus on theories and methods with wider applicability.

Coin Matters Resource Page Launched

SAFE has announced the launch of its latest resource page, Coin Matters, which lists articles and others resources referencing the indiscriminate trade and its relationship to looting and illicit activities. The August newsletter announcing the new resource states:
Ancient coins are among the most abundant finds from Greek and Roman period excavations. As objects of daily life, they're an essential part of the archaeological and historical record. At the same time, huge demand for fresh sources of ancient coins makes such finds susceptible to illicit sale. The looting of coins and other portable antiquities to meet market demand vandalizes archaeological sites and forever erases knowledge that could otherwise have been preserved.

SAFE is therefore pleased to announce the launch of the Coin Matters resource page listing resources relating to the trade in ancient coins, including links or citations to peer-reviewed articles, books, and lectures. There are also several media reports on the subject from affected countries, notably from Bulgaria.

As always, SAFE welcomes suggestions for additional resources to list. Check out Coin Matters today!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Video About the Gold Vessel and Antiquities Trading in Germany

The gold vessel from Ur that was seized from a German auction house in 2005 has been handed over to German authorities after residing in the care of the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz where it was analyzed by an expert in Mesopotamian metalwork, Michael Müller-Karpe. It is now feared that the object may be allowed to go auction since the antiquities laws in Germany are rather lax, one of the reasons the reasons that Germany is an important transit market for recently surfaced antiquities.

As a follow up to this story, DW-TV has posted an interesting online video broadcast (31 July 2009) discussing the gold vessel and role that Germany plays in the international trade.