Saturday, April 26, 2008

New Weblog on Numismatics and Archaeology

Welcome to Numismatics and Archaeology - a new weblog I have launched that will feature discussions relevant to Classical Archaeology (probably mostly Roman archaeology), numismatics, cultural property issues, and perhaps a few other things from time to time. I expect many of the posts here will simply be links to archaeological or numismatic news or discussions relevant to my research, with occasional posting on cultural property issues, which have a tendency to be more controversial, especially when people who make money from selling antiquities read your blog! I have regularly blogged for SAFECORNER, a blog for Saving Antquities for Everyone (SAFE) and discussed some cultural property issues relating directly to coins there. When it comes to the more controversial material that may crop up, I'm happy to engage anyone with opposing viewpoints in civil discussion here and allow comments from people with opposing views on such issues, so long as it remains civil. Any readers who come across this blog should also find David Gill's Looting Matters of interest, if they have not come across it already.

I'm a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri, working on a Ph.D. in Greek and Roman Art and Archaeology, with a minor emphasis on Roman History and Historians, and I'm writing a doctoral dissertation entitled "Architectural Coin Types: Reflections of Roman Society." Last year I was fortunate to receive a DAAD Research Grant to study at Frankfurt University and, having had a wonderful time there last year, I was invited by Prof. von Kaenel to return this year to work on the Martberg Project and identify coins for Fundmünzen der Antike. Where will I be next year? I don't know yet...such is the transient lifestyle of graduate students in the humanities!

Since I began studies at Frankfurt in 2006, an important center for the contextual study of coins, my research has been at the intersection of archaeology and numismatics. In my dissertation, for example, I am coupling traditional numismatic methods with the quantitative methods of Fundnumismatik. It is my hope that this site may at some point become a resource for this type of research. Fundnumismatik is a developing form of archaeological/numismatic inquiry, which is at present actively practiced by several Germanic scholars (such as the Frankfurt school of numismatics) and a circle of British scholars, and few others scattered throughout. Although I make use of archaeological contexts for my research, I am primarily concerned with the interpretation of images and understanding imperial Bildsprache on ancient Roman coins. If you're wondering how archaeological contexts and quantitative methods can help with that, I might discuss that in more detail in a later post, but for now if you wanted to read through Noreña, Carlos. 2001. "The Communication of the Emperor's Virtues," Journal of Roman Studies 91: 146-168 and the latter part of Kemmers, Fleur. 2006. Coins for a Legion: An Analysis of the Coin Finds from the Augustan Legionary Fortress and Flavian canabae legionis at Nijmegen. Mainz: von Zabern, SFMA 21, I think you would see where my research is coming from/going. The latter part of Kemmers' book is quite interesting and discusses the reverse types that are most frequently found at the fortress in contrast to finds from neighboring civilian settlements and Rome and indicates a deliberate communicative policy, as made evident by the coins recorded through archaeological excavation.

Intensive study of coins from archaeological sites can do so much more than provide dates or information about various economies and coin supply. For example, as the above paragraph implied, we are now learning that attention to the material in context allows us to bring imperial policy and the semantic use of the coins into clearer focus and identify populations to whom certain images were directed. This is one of the reasons I have been interested in the antiquities trade; looting, the destruction of historical sites, and the separation of a material object from its context - without any record - forever destroys history we will not be able to recover. The issue is not about "ownership" or any other ancillary concerns, it is about the destruction of history, to which we are all inheritors, and I am concerned because this is the systematic destruction of source material and the foundations of our scientific disciplines.

As a graduate student, with several on-going research projects and obligations (and let's not forget the dissertation!), I'm very busy and so I'm not sure how frequently I'll be able to post. I will, however, do my best to keep this site active and make regular posts on my research or what I might be thinking about certain issues relevant to it. One of the great thing about weblogs is that they can allow for a great deal of good feedback. Thanks for reading.