S37. ROME 3. DATA-DRIVEN APPROACHES TO ROMAN COINAGE: METROLOGY, METALLURGY AND MODELLING
- George A. Green (Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford)
Org. and chair: George A. Green
This session seeks to showcase some of the latest research on Roman coinage where scientific, data-driven methods have been employed. The four papers will cover approaches ranging from the familiar to the cutting-edge, but in each case our understanding of the topic at hand has been deepened through the collection, interrogation and manipulation of data.
The use of metrological data should be familiar to numismatists, but there is still scope for novel conclusions even with traditional methods. Here Green presents an analysis of 3000 aurei weights from second-century hoards, arguing that the rate of wear of the aureus – and therefore the velocity of its circulation – is far greater than has been traditionally accepted.
Metallurgical analyses of Roman coinage have been greatly aided by advances in chemistry and physics. In recent decades the use of high precision techniques, such as ICP-mass spectrometry, has become an established part of the archaeometric pantheon. Here Butcher and Ponting present results from their most recent analyses of Roman silver coinages, focusing on the conclusions that can be drawn from the trace element composition of the metal. At the bleeding-edge of this field is a brand-new technique called muonic X-ray emission spectroscopy that allows penetrative, major element analyses of cultural heritage objects to be conducted totally non-destructively. Here Hillier demonstrates how μXES has been used to investigate the question of surface enrichment in Roman gold and silver coinages.
Finally, the rich data generated by numismatic studies provides fertile ground for the application of computer modelling. This approach is still in its relative infancy within Roman numismatics, but there is clearly scope for the development of important research themes. Here Chiu-Smit presents some of the early conclusions from his doctoral work combining agent-based modelling with online databases of Roman coinage.
It will be argued here that the aureus had a much higher velocity of circulation than Duncan-Jones and others gave it credit for.
The data underpinning the notion that the aureus was low velocity coin comes from Duncan-Jones’ comparison of the weight loss of aurei from his “Belgian Hoard” with the weight loss of the English sovereign. A similar rate of wear to the sovereign, which was alloyed...
The chemical composition of silver coinage under the Roman Republic has been little studied. The largest recent survey is that of Holstein (2000), involving the analysis of 590 coins. The main analytical technique used was electron-probe micro-analysis (EPMA) directly on unprepared surfaces, which was unable to overcome surface effects that produced enhanced silver levels and reduced copper...
Non-destructive compositional analyses are extremely important in many cultural heritage fields. The use of negative muons (an electron analogue) has seen a resurgence in recent times, with developments occurring at several muon sources. After implanting negative muons into a sample muonic x-rays and gammas are released – these can then be detected to determine the composition of the sample....