April 6, 2015 – Workshop summary

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Dear Framing Coinage participants,
<this is a long email; there are a few questions for several regions at its end, please email me back that information as soon as possible so we can put it into the database for the second-stage forms>
We wanted to write this email in order to summarize our recent workshop, which was a great success in several respects, for both those participants who have attended (Lorenzo, Merle, Andrei, Jane, Alex and Jan), those who attended part of the conference via Skype (Paolo, Tommi) and those who were not able to join us.
The day began with Alan’s survey of coinage in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages using a broad theoretical overview, and continued with Lee’s introduction of the project, its general limitations and findings. As part of this we also unveiled our database, accessible through a site (still under construction) and showed an animation of the developments in minting over the four centuries of the project (this can be watched on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqIgDvSMHM4 or at the Framing Coinage site under Files, or here https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxwcmluY2V0b25mcmFtaW5nY29pbmFnZXxneDozMjY1YzVkOTk2ZDA0N2Vi). We followed this part with a series of regional presentations given by all participants who attended the workshop and Paolo and Tommi who Skyped in to discuss their own regions. Alan probably concluded this part best when he remarked that this workshop has probably brought together the most people working on these issues so far.
Before lunch, we took some time to discuss various remaining issues we’ve had regarding the project up to now, to which several of our guests added valuable comments. A detailed exposition of all these points would be too long, so in order to emphasize the most important points (not in order):
• We’ve had a large debate about small unnamed metal pieces, not exactly minted coins per se, which have been excavated across our area of interest; these do not appear in our database or in many catalogues and we will have to acknowledge their presence somehow in the second stage of the project.
• Some regions (Iberia, Gaul) will probably have additional mints to display once the people responsible for them will cover more secondary literature; our software should be able to accept such mints.
• Several comments dealt with the difficulty in differentiating between the output of a mint and its appearance on the map; as things are now, all mints look similar even if the amount of coins minted in them differs in several orders of magnitude. We will work with our digital development to find some kind of solution to this issue, probably using the proxy measure of issues divided by years to determine the size of the mint icon on the map.
• How should we deal with unknown mint locations – as things are now they are placed in the sea, near the general region in which they were supposedly minted. We would like to display these more clearly/intuitively in the future.
• There was some debate whether we should include the political authority responsible for minting coins. On one hand this is important information we would like to have, but on the other hand some of these are contentious, to say the least. Specific borders using annual resolution are also not always available. A possible solution will be to use optional layers interested users could overlay on the map and receive such information.
• This tied into a larger debate regarding displaying raw data vs. analysis. The conclusion was to have the basic raw data openly available, with different layers of analysis (or none at all) possible based on the user’s preferences.
• Another issue was concerned with looking at things using lower resolutions – decades or quarter centuries rather than single years. This should be resolved using an interval feature on our site (only partially working at the moment).
Following lunch, we reconvened for smaller sessions that concentrated on the project’s second stage. We went over the forms we’ve already developed for this stage and had a short tutorial about how to use them to input information from a random article (the explanations, tutorial and article are all attached; please note that the first two will be updated over time, as we work on our forms). We finished these off with another round table discussion. The main issues here were:
• The small metal pieces (above) would be able to tell us about more local trade patterns; they would only be reported in excavations. The same should be true about ingots.
• The varieties in excavation and hoard reports among our regions (“the Romania effect”) should be factored in our final product somehow, presumably with some measure of excavations per area (for instance, excavations per ten square miles, on average).
• We would like to have additional layers of information which would combine secondary studies and their notions of economic developments in this period, or other large-scale factors (for instance environmental changes).
• Countermarks – this would be a complicated exception we would have to deal with in both stages of the project.
We finished off the day with a stimulating discussion about the project’s future. As things currently seem, we all seem to envisage the project continuing for two more years or so before reaching a large enough size to claim that our collected data represents reality responsibly enough. A very abbreviated road map would be:
• Spring semester 2015 (up to June) – a beta test phase; each participant will use the forms to input five publications from his/her region, and provide feedback based on these findings. We will update the forms to reflect the accumulated feedback.
• Summer 2015 – Digital development on the forms should finish at some point over the summer.
• Fall semester 2015 – all participants will begin to input information according to an agreed upon pace (see below). The digital development of the software for the second stage will begin by figuring out which kinds of questions we would like to ask, and then coming up with ideas about how to display their answers. Once that it set, we will begin developing features, one at a time, and send these out to the participants for more feedback, comments and ideas.
• Late Fall 2015/early Spring 2016 – we will hold a large scale conference to conclude the first stage of the project, inviting all participants and several big name scholars, together with providing everyone with a “sneak peek” of our second phase. This conference will take place over a day or two; if we will need to make additional decisions as a group, this would also be the time to do so. Participants will give talks, each about his/her region; these, together with talks by the invited scholars would hopefully be published in a Conference Proceedings volume.
• Spring 2016 – participants will continue to input data based on the agreed-upon pace. We would like to finish our digital development by this stage and proceed to link our database with additional numismatics projects which are already online. We will consider other options, such as limited crowdsourcing, as well.
Comments upon this timeline concentrated upon a few key issues:
• This has a lot to do with the question of meticulousness vs. amount of data. While there is definitely enough material for all of us to work on this project for decades, that is out of the question for all of us; therefore, we have decided that at least for now, we will emphasize collecting as much data as possible, even if it means not to include some of the less useful details for our interpretation.
• Following this, because of the very large number of 4th century coins in hoards and excavation reports, we might want to emphasize later (5-8th century coins) instead. We should not overdo this, however, as it would skew our results.
• Pace – number of publications vs. number of coins vs. number of times people fill form #2 per month. The latter alternative is currently the favored option, although we will make a final decision on this issue once we finish the beta phase in the next couple of months.
• Participants seemed favorable to an idea of a hired person who would go over all major numismatic publications, find the relevant references and send them to participants bi-weekly or monthly. This would save everyone time and enable people to focus on their region and its specific bibliography.
• Sustainability – how would we continue to sustain this project after we finish it? While we should be cognizant of such matters, this will ultimately be the responsibility of whatever institution which will end up hosting our project.
• This does connect to another issue – namely, to keep detailed comments and track everything that we do, in order to let future users/participants know what has been done.
These were the most important points we’ve raised; as for the near future – we hope to make the changes to the forms as soon as possible and to open them up for data input in the around mid-April. Therefore, each participant should:
1. Find five publications in his region, in preparation for the actual data input. Once we release the beta versions of the forms, we will ask everyone to use them to input the information from these articles in about a month or so.
2. More pressingly, for all non-Roman issues (West until Romulus Augustulus, East until Leo III): send me a list of known rulers who appear on coins in your region, together with their regnal years. This information will help in automatically filling in the regnal years whenever you will select a ruler in the second stage (form #2), and of course provide the standardized names for these rulers.
3. Please send me the names of all non-Roman dynasties/political groups which had any minting activity in your region, as you would like them to appear in our database (as in Vandals, Ostrogoths, etc.).
Other than that, we would like to greet Lara Fabian, a graduate student from U Penn, to the project. Lara is going to work on the circulation in the Southern Caucasus, a very interesting frontier region between the Roman-Byzantine and the Persian minting/circulation zones. We are still looking for someone to cover Persian minting and circulation, about which we still lack information. Similarly, we are seeking to expand to several regions in northern Europe (Scandinavia, Russia&Ukraine and the area between Eastern Germany to Romania) for the next stage of the project. If any of you knows of anyone who would be interested in working on any of these regions or part of them, please inform Alan and myself.
All best,
Lee and Alan

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