Wednesday 18 June 2014

Biblical Archaeology Review on Coins, Collecting and Looting

“it is important to preserve as much evidence as possible.” 

I am looking forward to seeing the numismatic discipline's reaction to Nathan Elkins' “Investigating the Crime Scene: Looting and Ancient Coins” that appears in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. he article likens what an archaeologist does to what forensic investigators do on a crime scene. An object improperly removed from a crime scene becomes impermissible as evidence. This not only affects one site, Elkins gives a very good example of a site he is working on and its significance for the precise dating of a whole range of similar sites.
Common coins that might trade in the US market for two or three dollars are critically important at sites like Huqoq when they are found sealed under floors, foundations or walls, they are the definitive evidence, the 'smoking guns'. 
Elkins points out that there are many ways of studying any artefact, even one without a context, but he argues that numismatists must not condone or, worse, encourage the destructive behavior which makes the artefacts usable only for a certain, restricted range of purposes, instead of being studied in the full richness of the information it could have offered.

Well worth a read, get a copy now.

UPDATE 17th June 2014
There is now an online summary for non-subscribers here where there is a link to another article by Elkins on the coins of Nerva and why knowing where they were found is particularly important for determining the audience for whom the pictures and writing on them were intended. Non-academic coineys just see the pictures and writing from their 'battles and kings' perspective, but are unconcerned about getting a more detailed view of how their meaning was intended to be read.

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