Monday, 4 March 2013

Mummification Museum Lecture - Ptolemaic Coins in Thebes

Ptolemaic Coins in Thebes – Thomas Faucher
Firstly I encourage you to look at this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT3p9cM4QWQ a short clip of which he showed during the lecture, it documents their work in experimental archaeology.

Secondly Thomas also dedicated his lecture to Michel Wuttmann

Thomas described the difficulties of coins found in excavations. He will find a description or a photograph but when tries and locates the coins they have disappeared. There are big difficulties in restoring coins as they are very labour intensive and sometimes an excavator was presented with a big mess of corroded metal and could see years of work. That might be why they have disappeared from evocations from long ago.

The first coins in Egypt were gold ones of Nectanebo II 361-343 they had hieroglyphics on them. (One of the things I had not appreciated is that finding a coin leads to speculation about it use.) These coins were possible produced to pay mercenaries in the war against the Persians.

The Hacksilber hoard contained 2 silver coins (I found this article http://www.academia.edu/362347/H._Gitler_A_Hacksilber_and_Cut_Athenian_Tetradrachm_Hoard_from_the_Environs_of_Samaria_Late_Fourth_Century_BCE_Israel_Numismatic_Research_1_2006_pp._5-14).

Hoards were quite common and would contain a mixture of metal pieces, coins, jewellery, ingots. A letter from a Roman called Ossenouiphis details the contents of his mothers hoard and there was a complete mixture in that.

There is a system of classification that is used with regard to Ptolemaic coins Les monnaies de fouilles du Centre d'Études Alexandrines and he used this in his presentation. Many of his slides showing location were taken from Google Earth which has recently been updated and is very useful for aerial shots of Karnak. No coins of Ptolemy I or II have been found and he does not have a reason why that should be.

Opet Temple at Karnak

The 1968/69 excavation discovered 700 coins weighing 40 kilos they were from series 3, 4 and 5 and only half have been conserved. He has a new team of Egyptian conservators working on this. There is a 50gm coin that has a closed wing eagle and 100gm coin with an open winged eagle. This is the biggest in the Greek world and has technical difficulties in production.

North Bubastis Wall

During the work to put in the sound and light equipment, 12 coins were found from series 5 and 6. In 187 BC the old coins were withdrawn and new ones issued. Coins were marked with a counter mark and Thomas should an example of one where the owner had put his own mark.

Ptah Temple.

A series 6 coin from 197-150 with the head of Alexander. This is unusual as Alexandrian coins were not normally found in southern Egypt

Ptolemaic Baths

316 coins were found in Sep 2007 from series 7 150-115. Examples are Isis with one eagle and 2 eagles.

At this point he showed us a short clip from his YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT3p9cM4QWQ showing how coins were struck with a metal die. Coins can also be moulded which is easier. Some coins had lead mixed in the bronze and this is badly mixed and shows. He showed a coin found at the Akhoris chapel which shows the lead. Moulded coins used clay moulds.

Ptah Path

In the area to the south of the Osirian chapels on the Ptah path they found a monetary workshop. The letters on the die are not proper Greek letters series 7. They also found a 4 coin blank as shown in the video. It is easier to mould coins and the authorities must have known that coins were being struck so this is a first, a mint outside Alexandrian which was illegal!

Mut Temple

Here they found an empty jar which must have contained a hoard which the owner had collected. But when he collected it he dropped 13 coins outside the pot.

Front of the first pylon

A tantalising photograph showing a coin find but according the records they were too corroded to save. In nearly every excavation he nearly always finds coins so excavations of the past that have no records or the coins are lost but must have had them and it is disappointing so many have gone missing.

Coins tell us a lot, about how much money was in circulation and what the coin would buy. For example the economy of Ptolemy IX had 10,000 talents which would have made 15 million coins but only 333 silver talents were struck and fewer bronze ones.

Also they give us the only picture of Cleopatra which certainly does not show her as a beauty which matches contemporary accounts. Augustus coins had the value written on them in Latin. There were 80 and 40 drachma coins and this would give you a week at the public baths, a kilo of wheat or one day’s wages.

His plea was an amusing slide saying don’t throw your coins away (even though is takes 2 years to clean 800 coins)

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