Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Program: 'Art in the Round': New Approaches to Ancient Coin Iconography

The final program for the International Workshop 'Art in the Round': New Approaches to Ancient Coin Iconography, November 15-16, 2012 at the University of Tübingen, can now be circulated.

For more information and a printable program, please visit the conference website at

International Workshop
'Art in the Round': New Approaches to Ancient Coin Iconography
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Institut für Klassische Archäologie
15–16 November 2012

Thursday, 15 November 2012

10.00 Welcome and opening remarks

10.30 Keynote Address: Tonio Hölscher (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg), Historienbilder der römischen Republik: Das Repertoire der Münzen im Vergleich zu anderen Bildgattungen

Session I: Image and Theory
Chair: Fleur Kemmers (Goethe Universität Frankfurt)

11.30 Gunnar Dumke (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg), Sekundäre Ikonographien. Prolegomena zu immobilisierten und imitierten griechischer Münztypen

12.00 Ragnar Hedlund (Uppsala University), ‘Whose image is this’ - again? Exploring new frameworks for the interpretation of ancient coin imagery.

12.30 Lunch

Session II: Coin Iconography in Numismatic and Material Contexts
Chair: Stefan Krmnicek (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)

14.00 Clare Rowan (Goethe Universität Frankfurt), Iconography in colonial contexts: the provincial coinage of the late Republic

14.30 Frank Daubner (Universität Stuttgart), Statische Bilder, statische Identitäten? Zu Münzdarstellungen römischer Kolonien in Makedonien

15.00 Marta Barbato (Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza), Flavian typology: the evidence from the "sottosuolo urbano“ of Rome

15.30 Coffee and tea

16.00 Johannes Nollé (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut), Kleinasiatische Lokalprägungen und Inschriften

16.30 Ute Wartenberg-Kagan (American Numismatic Society), The Clazomenae hoard: an archaeological and iconographical puzzle

17.00 Lutz Ilisch (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen), Zur Metamorphose der
konstantinischen Victoria zum islamischen Schutzengel auf nordmesopotamischen Kupferdirham des 12. Jh.

18.30 Reception at the Museum of the University MUT | Ancient Cultures

Friday, 16 November 2012

Session III: Type Specific Studies and the Importance of Coin Iconography
Chair: Nathan T. Elkins (Baylor University)

09.30 Maria Cristina Molinari (Musei Capitolini Roma), The two Roman types with the two-faced god on 3rd century BC coinage

10.00 Kyle Erickson (The University of Wales Trinity Saint David), Zeus to Apollo and back again: shifts in Seleucid policy and iconography

10.30 Mary Jane Cuyler (University of Sidney), Portus Ostiensis on the Sestertii of Nero

11.00 Coffee and tea

11.30 Richard Abdy (The British Museum), Trophy of the hunt: the Hadrianic introduction of the lion skin on coin portraits

12.00 David Wigg-Wolf (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut), Constantine’s silver medallion from Ticinum (RIC 36): “one small step” or “a giant leap”?

12.30 Lunch

Session IV: Coins, Literature, and the Visual Arts
Chair: Klaus Sachs-Hombach (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)

14.00 Christopher Simon (Yale University), Image and etymology in republican coinage

14.30 Bernd Steinbock (University of Western Ontario), Coin imagery and Latin
panegyrics as means of imperial communication

15.00 Coffee and tea

15.30 Patrick Monsieur (Ghent University), The relationship between Greek coins, gems and pottery stamps: an introduction through the archaeological evidence of Chios

16.00 Martin Beckmann (McMaster University), The relationship between numismatic portraits and marble busts: the problematic example of Faustina the Younger

16.30 Concluding remarks and farewell

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Synagogue Mosaic Revealed at Huqoq, Israel

This summer I was in Huqoq, Israel where I am a staff member at the excavation of the ancient synagogue and village (I identify, record, and study the coin finds).  This season I could only stay a week because of other obligations.  While on site, I spent some time supervising the sifting operation and instructing field school students how distinguish various sorts of artifacts such as pot sherds, cut stone, glass, etc. from simple rocks.  It was during this time that tiny tesserae (cube-shaped colored stones - the building blocks for mosaics) began to appear in great numbers in the sifter.  This was an exciting indication that we would soon reveal a high-quality mosaic floor as the smaller the tesserae are, the finer the mosaic is.  However, there were so many tesserae in the fill we also feared the mosaic floor may no longer be intact.

The mosaic floor discovered this summer relates to the Biblical story of Samson and a Hebrew inscription encourages readers to do good deeds.  There have been several news articles online and an official press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority.  Recently, CNN and MSNBC have also carried the news.

Here is an excerpt from the CNN article:

(CNN) -- Archaeologists are reveling in the discovery of an ancient synagogue in northern Israel, a "monumental" structure with a mosaic floor depicting the biblical figure of Samson and a Hebrew inscription.

The synagogue -- dating to the fourth and fifth centuries in both the Talmudic and late Roman periods -- is in Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village in the country's Galilee region, the Israeli Antiquities Authority said.

Jodi Magness, a professor of early Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the building was found in a recent excavation.

She called the find "exciting" and described the "very high quality of the artwork" in the mosaic, crafted with "tiny colored stone cubes." Only a few late Roman period synagogues contained mosaics with biblical scenes, said Magness, one of the leaders of a U.S., Israeli and Canadian team engaged in the digs.

"This discovery is significant," she said, calling the site "extraordinary" and "stunning."
Samson was known for enormous physical strength and his fighting prowess against the Philistines, the enemy of the Israelites.

His story, recounted in the Bible's Book of Judges, mentions Delilah, a Philistine woman who worked to undermine Samson. She cut his hair after she persuaded Samson to reveal that his long hair was the secret to this strength.

Magness said the mosaic scene shows Samson putting torches between the tails of foxes. That image, from a vignette in the Book of Judges, is a reference to Samson exacting revenge on the Philistines by sending out flame-laden foxes to burn their lands.

She said the only other images of Samson in synagogues are at one nearby place in the Galilee known as Wadi Hamam, where Samson is seen "smiting" the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. Another is in what is now modern Turkey, depicting scenes from Samson's life.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ancient Coin Dealer Pleads Guilty to Attempted Possession of Stolen Coins

In January of this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents seized three rare Greek coins from Arnold Peter Weiss, a partner of the ancient coin auction house Nomos AG, at the New York International Numismatic Convention.  Agents were acting upon information that he told an undercover informant.  In spite of the provenance information that had been supplied in a catalogue for an upcoming auction, he stated: "There's no paperwork. I know this is a fresh coin. This was dug up a few years ago."  The coins were alleged to have been looted in Italy.  The three coins that were seized were worth an estimated $3 million on the market.

Today it was announced that Weiss has plead guilty to trying to sell coins that he thought were stolen, although they turned out to be high quality forgeries.  The fact that they are forgeries was determined through the aid of a scanning electron microscope.  The three coins remain property of the District Attorney's Office and will be destroyed.

As part of his plea agreement, Weiss must complete 70 hours of community service, pay a $3,000 fine, and "must author an article warning of the risks of dealing in coins of unknown or looted provenance for publication in a coin collection publication."

Below is a short bibliography on the trade in looted and unprovenanced ancient coins:

Beckmann, M. 1998. "Numismatics and the Antiquities Trade," The Celator 12 (5) 25-28.

Butcher, K. and D. Gill. 1990. "Mischievous Pastime or Historical Science?" Antiquity 64 (245): 946-950.

Center for the Study of Democracy. 2007. Organized Crime in Bulgaria: Markets and Trends. Sofia: Center for the Study of Democracy. Online available: http://pdc.ceu.hu/archive/00003706/01/organized_crime_markets_and_trends.pdf.

Dietrich, R. 2002. "Cultural Property on the Move - Legally, Illegally," International Journal of Cultural Property 11: 294-303.

Elkins, N.T. 2008. "A Survey of the Material and Intellectual Consequence of Trading in Undocumented Ancient Coins," Frankfurter elektronische Rundschau zur Altertumskunde 7: 1-13. Online available: http://www.fera-journal.eu.

Elkins, N.T. 2009. "Treasure Hunting 101 in America's Classrooms," Journal of Field Archaeology34.4: 481-489  with editorial introduction by M. M. Kersel and C. Luke.

Elkins, N.T. 2012. "The Trade in Fresh Supplies of Ancient Coins: Scale, Organization, and Politics," in P.K. Lazrus and A.W. Barker (eds.), All the King's Horses: Essays on the Impact of Looting and the Illicit Antiquities Trade on Our Knowledge of the Past. Washington, D.C.: Society for American Archaeology Press. 91-107.

von Kaenel, H.-M. 1994. Die antike Numismatik und ihr Material. Schweizer Münzblätter 44 (173): 1-12.

von Kaenel, H.-M. 2009. "Coins in Context - A Personal Approach," in H.-M von Kaenel and F. Kemmers (eds.), Coins in Context 1: New Approaches for the Interpretation of Coin Finds. Mainz: von Zabern. Studien zu Fundmünzen der Antike 23. 9-24 (pp. 22-23 discuss the coin trade specifically).

Walker, A.S. 1977. "The Coin Market Versus the Numismatist, Archaeologist, and Art Historian," Journal of Field Archaeology 4: 253-258.

Witschonke, R. 2009. "Guest Editorial," The Celator 23 (1): 4,22.

Consultation with many of the works will reveal further bibliography.

And, of course, there has also been the series of editorials discussing ethics and practice in the past several issues of the American Numismatic Magazine.

UPDATE:(7/5/2012) Contrary to  initial reports in the media, Safecorner is reporting that there is no court order for the destruction of the forgeries.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Call for Papers: 'Art in the Round': New Approaches to Ancient Coin Iconography

International Workshop
University of Tübingen, Institut für Klassische Archäologie, 15–16 November 2012.

Organizers: Dr. Stefan Krmnicek, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen and Dr. Nathan T. Elkins, Baylor University

Call for Papers:

Our understanding of Graeco‐Roman coinage is inextricably linked to the study of the images on those coins and the messages that they conveyed. Designs on coins provide insights into the nature of ancient visual culture and the societies in which such images were deployed and consumed. Recent iconographic studies have acknowledged that images on coins must be studied in concert with texts and the material context of their bearers, requiring a new set of interpretative methodologies and research agendas.

New research has demonstrated that by treating coin images in the Greek and Roman worlds as a part of a semantic system and by considering the archaeological evidence, we gain a better understanding of the importance, meanings, and functions of images on coins. As certain images appear to have been more or less relevant to differing segments of society in different periods and across various parts of the Mediterranean world, iconographic studies are also a unique source of insight into political communication, and the socio‐cultural identities of common people, individuals who otherwise left little or no trace in the archaeological record.

Due to the existence of varied research traditions, the international workshop ‘Art in the Round’: New Approaches to Ancient Coin Iconography aims to explore new directions in the study of iconography on Graeco‐Roman coinage by gathering scholars from different academic perspectives. Numismatists, Classicists, Historians, Archaeologists and Art Historians are invited to present their research in order to contribute to this timely topic. Papers that explore methodology or specific topics or themes are welcome.

Abstracts of no longer than 300 words should be sent by email to
Stefan.Krmnicek(at)uni‐tuebingen.de and Nathan_Elkins(at)baylor.edu.

Deadline for submission is 30 June 2012. Papers in English and German are welcome.

Conference website: http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/artintheround

Visit the conference website to download a printable copy of the Call for Papers.  Colleagues are encouraged to circulate the Call for Papers among faculty, scholars, researchers, and graduate students who may wish to contribute to the workshop.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Antiquities and Ancient Coin Dealer Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Egyptian Artifacts

The Eastern District of New York of the U.S. Attorney's Office has announced that ancient coin and antiquities dealer Mousa Khouli has plead guilty to the smuggling of Egyptian cultural property.

Mousa Khouli, also known as “Morris Khouli,” pleaded guilty today to smuggling Egyptian cultural property into the United States and making a false statement to law enforcement authorities. The defendant entered his plea before the Honorable Edward R. Korman, United States District Judge, at the U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn. The defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. The defendant also entered into a stipulation of settlement resolving a civil complaint seeking forfeiture of the Egyptian antiquities, Iraqi artifacts, cash and other pieces of cultural property seized in connection with the government’s investigation.

The guilty plea and settlement were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York.

According to court documents, Khouli was an antiquities dealer who arranged for the purchase and smuggling of a series of Egyptian antiquities between October 2008 and November 2009, specifically a Greco-Roman style Egyptian coffin, a three-part nesting coffin set, a set of Egyptian funerary boats, and Egyptian limestone figures. These antiquities were exported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and smuggled into the United States using a variety of illegal methods intended to avoid detection and scrutiny by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“Customs”), including making false declarations to Customs concerning the country of origin and value of the antiquities, and providing misleading descriptions of the contents on shipping labels and customs paperwork, such as “antiques,” “wood panels” and “wooden painted box.” Khouli covered up the smuggling by making false statements to law enforcement authorities.

Most of the smuggled antiquities were recovered by law enforcement at the time the indictment was unsealed on July 14, 2011. The innermost coffin of the nesting set was seized during a search of Khouli’s residence in September 2009. The middle coffin and most of the outer coffin lid were seized in November 2009, after they arrived via sea cargo at the Port of Newark, New Jersey. The Greco-Roman sarcophagus, funerary boats, and limestone figures were seized during a search of co-defendant Joseph A. Lewis II’s residence in July 2011.

The missing pieces of the coffin lid were forfeited to the government in court today. They consist of four wooden bird-like figures that attach to the four corners of the coffin lid, and four wooden panels that comprise the rectangular bottom of the coffin lid. Hieroglyphics on the coffin indicate that the name of the deceased was “Shesepamuntayesher” and that she bore the title “Lady of the House.”

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Karin Orenstein and Claire Kedeshian.

The Defendant:
MOUSA KHOULI, also known as “Morris Khouli”
Age: 38

(via U.S. Department of Justice)

Khouli and one of the co-defendants in the case were active members of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) at the time of the their arrests and at the time they allegedly committed their crimes.  The ACCG is a lobby group that attempts to stifle legislation meant to curb the looting and smuggling of cultural property when the free trade in ancient coins may be affected; the group is largely run and financially supported by ancient coin and antiquities dealerships.

Litigation continues against the co-defendants, who are considered innocent until proven guilty.  Rick St. Hilaire, an expert in cultural property law, has been closely following and reporting on the case.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Summary of the Public Hearing on the Renewal of the MOU with Cyprus Now Online

In January, I summarized some of the discussion that took place on January 18, 2012 during the U.S. State Department's meeting of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee to hear public testimony on renewals of the Memoranda of Understanding with Cyprus and Peru ("Comments on the Extension of the MOU with Cyprus").

Most of those present spoke in support of these agreements. The Archaeological Institute of America has now posted a report on the January 18th meeting: "Report on CPAC Public Hearing, January 18, 2012."

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

International Conference Call for Papers: Coinage, Minting, and Monetary Circulation in Antiquity and in the Middle Ages

I have been asked to publicize this call for papers for a numismatic conference at the University of Debrecen, Hungary. The conference will be held April 26-27, 2012.

The Department of History, the History Doctoral Program and the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Debrecen (Hungary) are organizing a conference on ancient and medieval coins, coinage, mints and minting, money circulation and in a broader sense of finances and monetary systems, financial-economic measures, regulations, dues and customs, tolls, taxation etc. The conference is expecting papers from the periods of the use of money, from the fields of the emergence of money in certain periods as well as different aspects of financial-economic history. The conference has a dual thematic scope, awaiting papers both from ancient historians and medievalists.

If you wish to deliver a paper, please submit a title and a short summary of 100 words by March 1, 2012 and send an abstract of 2,500 words in English/German by April 2, 2012 to the following email address: pforisek2@yahoo.com. Inquiries may be directed to Péter Forisek at the same email address.

The organizers will offer free accommodation and meals for the two days of the conference.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Comments on the Extension of the MOU with Cyprus

On January 18, the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) of the U.S. Department of State held a public hearing in Washington. The committee was receiving public comment on the requests for extensions of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with Peru and Cyprus; these MOUs are a vehicle to protect the cultural patrimony and archaeological resources of these nations from looting, trafficking, and smuggling. Speakers were asked to address any of the four determinations, upon which the committee makes their recommendations, in their written and oral comments. I attended this meeting and spoke in support of an extension with Cyprus. Below is a summary of my comments.

After introducing myself, I stated that my comments would be related to the first and second determinations. I discussed a January 2010 raid by police in Cyprus. It is one of the biggest antiquities busts in Cyprus' history. Members of the smuggling ring were arrested and 11 million euro ($15.5 million) in looted antiquities were confiscated. Among those objects were a miniature gold coffin, terracotta urns, limestone figures, and bronze and silver coins. This important seizure bears on the first and second determinations as 1) it shows that the cultural patrimony and archaeological resources of Cyprus are in jeopardy through pillage and 2) shows that the Republic of Cyprus is taking proactive measures within its own borders to combat plunder.

My primary area of expertise and research is Roman coinage. And, as many individuals who follow MOU hearings are well aware, the inclusion of coins in the designated list of objects protected through an MOU is a hotly contested issue as there is a flourishing trade in ancient coins and a great demand for new material. Therefore, I took the opportunity to point out to the committee the need to protect coins alongside other objects on the designated list, such as sculpture, ceramics, metalwork, etc. The above-mentioned seizure illustrates the fact that looters and smugglers often procure ancient coins and antiquities from the same sources, i.e. tombs and archaeological sites of various sorts.

After briefly discussing the international market for Cypriot material and providing some numbers, I countered one of the arguments that is most often used by opponents of the protection of coins. Essentially the argument goes like this: "coins circulated in antiquity and thus it is impossible to know in what nation they might have been found once they enter the North American marketplace; as a consequence of this, coins cannot be protected according to the framework of the Cultural Property Implementation Act." In response to this claim, I made the point that it is in fact true that coins circulated in antiquity. But coin circulation is actually a much more complex issue than is often presented to the committee by those opposed to the protection of coins. Some coins circulated more or less than others. One example I gave is the imperial gold and silver coinage, struck at Rome and Lugdunum (Lyons); this coinage circulated widely across the Roman Empire. But in contrast to this, some Greek coinages and the locally produced Roman provincial coinage circulated regionally or locally. Such locally produced and circulating coins are already protected in the current MOU with Cyprus.

One tradesman, who had submitted a letter in opposition to the inclusion of coins in the designated list, provided a list of hoards from outside of Cyprus that included Cypriot coins. In the letter it is claimed that the list provides "uncontestable (sic) evidence that these coins circulated in antiquity and since." Yes, coins circulated. But the letter in question did not examine the evidence in a critical way. After all, the hoard evidence from Cyprus itself was wholly omitted. As I pointed out in my letter and in my oral commentary, the hoard evidence, which deals primarily with the Cypriot coinage of the Hellenistic period, shows a remarkably greater proportion of Cypriot coins in Cypriot hoards in comparison with the foreign hoards. I cited eight hoards from Cyprus recorded in IGCH. In aggregate, coins of Cypriot type comprised 45% of the total of all hoards found in Cyprus. On the other hand, coins of Cypriot type, in aggregate, composed 9% of the foreign hoards mentioned in the other letter. That letter had a list of 33 hoards containing a total 3,662 coins, of which 313 are Cypriot. The much smaller number of eight hoards from Cyprus totaled 2,878 coins, 1,303 of which are Cypriot. The evidence indicates that Greek Cypriot coins are much more prominent in Cyprus than outside of Cyprus.

Finally, I addressed the Roman provincial coinage in Cyprus. The authoritative study on this series is D. Parks, The Roman Coinage of Cyprus (Nicosia, 2005). One chapter, "Circulation of Cypriot and Imported Coinage in Cyprus" (pp. 137-162), examines Cypriot coins from a number of sources and provides ample evidence that Roman coins of Cypriot type circulated abundantly on the island and less frequently outside of it. The current designated list only includes coins until c. AD 235. As there are also Cypriot coins of Byzantine and Venetian type, it was suggested that these be added to any renewal.

Two other numismatists, distinguished in their areas of expertise, provided testimony in support of the extension of the MOU and the continued protection of coins.

I expect that a summary of the public hearing will soon be posted on the website of the Archaeological Institute of America by someone who attended the meeting. Summaries of the public hearings in November on Belize and Bulgaria can be found here.