Phase I – the revised spreadsheet

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Dear colleagues,

Continuing our project, I am sharing my revised version of the first step of the Framing Early Medieval Coinage Project, covering Mints, Metals and Denominations between 325-500. The spreadsheet I am sharing with you is fairly complicated – some of the following explanations should be obvious enough, but I guess it is still better to write everything down and make it clearer in this manner. I would be glad to hear and discuss any comments you might have about the format and style I chose – these are definitely not perfect, and I am sure there are still ways to improve them.

To access the spreadsheet, click on this link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ArnHSRqsvdIidEpzNGYzQ2JvbWJlVFZHVm9fTVRBY3c&usp=sharing. Please note that anyone with this link can edit anything on the spreadsheet, and you are not required to have a Google account in order to do so. 

The leftmost column of the spreadsheet covers years (each year in a row). The top row is divided into mints, with their general location in parentheses. For each mint the three metals are given (gold, silver,bronze) in the second row of the spreadsheet with the suitable color (makes it much easier to see). Things get a little more complicated on the third row, which covers denominations. In the case of gold and silver, there is a column for each denomination (i.e solidi, semisses, aurei, etc.). For bronze, the division is based on that of the RIC books – since each book presents bronze coins slightly differently, I chose to keep this information for this step (changing it later would be very easy). Therefore, some coins are listed as general “Aes\Folles”, others have certain weights and others have the code names of Aes I-IV which some books use.

The rest of the (huge) table has lots of numbers. These are basically the amount of entries of this type in the RIC (Roman Imperial Coinage) books (hence – number of types). For instance, you can easily find out that in the mint of Thessalonika, there are 3 known types of solidi for 326. For another example, over the years 330-331 there are 3 known types of silver miliarenses in the same mint. Some of the annual entries have comments embedded into them (the small black triangle at their top right corner) – you can hover your mouse over them and figure out what is written in them).

Much of this project is going to be shaped by our information – namely the RIC books. I mentioned above that the bronze denominations are based on the RIC books. In addition, the horizontal lines (between 337-338, 364-365, 395-396 and 491-492) are divisions between different books. I tried not to mix information between books, even at the price of losing a little precision (typically one year: for instance, when one group of solidi are minted in Thessalonika in 364 and another group is minted between 364-367. In this case I would mark the second group as beginning in 365 instead of 364). In addition, when using the RIC books, you will notice that each of them deals with coin types a bit differently, hence 20 entries in RIC VII does not mean the same as 20 entries in RIC IX – so keep it in mind when comparing different type sizes.

A few other comments:

Medallions – these are basically all the imprinted coin-like pieces of metal which are larger than the common denominations (sometimes called “Multiples” in the books). In the mints I covered I had medallions for each of the three metals, and I coded them in one of two formats – “13.44g(1)” or “3S(2)”. The first case means “one type, weighing 13.44 grams”, while the other means “two types, weighing 3 Solidi each” (obviously the latter method is relevant only for gold). I used the ~ sign in several cases (usually to round up one or more coins of similar weight), but there wasn’t a systematic rule for that. On occasions in which no weight is listed, I entered “unknown(1)” for “one type, unknown weight”.

Precision – it is apparently quite hard to keep precise information because of the many factors involved. You will notice that in the silver (miliarenses) and bronze (aes\folles) cases, I included an additional column, titled “(additional column for parallel issues)”. This was a way to solve a problem such as in Heraclea between 327 and 333. It’s best to look at the table while reading this: in this case, we had three groups of bronze types – 9 types minted between 327-329, 25 types minted between 330-333, and 5 types minted between 329-330. Since it is impossible to easily represent all of these because of the two overlapping groups, the third group is represented in the parallel column. In a few other cases I chose to lose precision (typically of one year) and present a clearer situation on the spreadsheet.

Numbers – remember that the numbers represent coin types, not coin quantities. Therefore, they should be understood as general markers of the complexity of the coin issues rather than the quantity of coins minted (this would be the second stage of this project).

Bronze coins – in some cases, especially in the mid-late 4th century, bronze coins appear in very different weights. In these cases I placed the coins in the column closest to their weight and added their weight using the aforementioned syntax – for instnace, Thessalonika minted 6 types of 2.60g bronze coins between 348-350, then 4 types of 2.45g bronze coins between 351-355 and 5 types of 2.25g bronze coins between 356-361. All of those are listed in the same column (2.60g).

Additional information – Alan and I were thinking about how to represent rulers (easier) or the individuals depicted\mentioned on the coins (harder) at the same time on this table. If anyone has an idea how to do this, please share it with us.

Questions\Comments – Would be much appreciated.

How to continue? – you all should have editing rights to the document. I think it would be easiest to copy-paste one of the mints and use it as a template for your own needs. You can do it directly on the Google Docs\Drive thing, or you can copy it to Excel and work on it there (and then either add it back to the large Google Docs file or send it to me and I will do it). Unless you have specific issues, I think it is best that we all follow a similar template – that way we could save more work in the future. For this reason, it would be better to voice any comments earlier rather than later.

To conclude this long email, I am aware that this seems like a lot of work – it probably is (although much less than you would expect), but the information we could derive from putting everything together is more than worth it – especially when we can aggregate the entire Mediterranean\Middle East region together. I definitely gained more than a few insights from my (relatively) small Asia Minor\Balkans area, and I am sure there are much more to be found.

All best,

Lee

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