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ISAW Papers 20.6 (2021)

Numismatics and Linked Open Data

Ethan Gruber, American Numismatic Society, and Andrew Meadows, New College, Oxford

In: Sarah E. Bond, Paul Dilley, and Ryan Horne, eds. 2021. Linked Open Data for the Ancient Mediterranean: Structures, Practices, Prospects. ISAW Papers 20.


Abstract: This paper is a revision of “Coinage and Numismatic Methods. A Case Study of Linking a Discipline,” which was authored by Meadows and Gruber and published by New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World’s electronic article series, ISAW Papers, in 2014.1 This was one of thirty articles published in a special series dedicated to Linked Open Data methodologies for the ancient world following the 2012-2013 National Endowment for the Humanities-funded Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities program, Linked Ancient World Data Institute (LAWDI).

Library of Congress Subjects: Linked data; Numismatics, Ancient.

The Opportunity

As a type of evidence for the ancient world, coinage is unique. Coins are monetary objects, and thus a key element in modern attempts to reconstruct the workings of the ancient economy. For example, through the process of “die-study” it is possible to determine with some degree of accuracy how many dies were used to strike a given coinage. This provides us with a way to quantify ancient monetary production. Since coins can also be attributed to particular rulers or cities with some degree of certainty, this makes it possible to ascertain the monetary output of different cities, kingdoms and empires, and to compare them with one another. There now exists a substantial body of scholarship devoted to the estimation of size of production, but comparatively little as yet to its broad analysis or representation in interactive media such as timelines or maps.2

Coins are also archaeological objects in that they have findspots. Coins within archaeological contexts have much to tell excavators about the contexts they are digging, but also more broadly about the monetary profile of the site they are excavating compared to others of similar or different types; from multiple sites a regional history may emerge (see, e.g., Reece, 1982). But findspots also give coins a trajectory. If we know where a coin was made and where it was found, we have evidence for movement, connectivity, and economic circulation (see Map 1).