Tracing the origins of ancient coins

Published on December 13th, 2010 | by Admin

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coins

By bombarding ancient Greek and Roman coins with subatomic particles to determine their metallic makeup, researchers are able to pinpoint exactly where the metal was mined from.

“As we learn more about the artifact we come to understand the coin itself a little better. And the other shoe to drop on that is to understand the origin and where the silver came from. We can then begin to better understand economic trade routes and particular patterns of trade and exchange in antiquity,” he told CTV.ca.

Essentially, researchers can begin to reconstruct the story of the ancient coins and connect them to historic events, adding an Indiana Jones-esque flare to a field with a reputation for nerdiness.

The long-term goal is to create a database available to researchers, archeologists and historians around the world.

Pope and his colleagues are studying coins on loan from the McMaster Museum of Art. Most are Greek and Roman coins, some dating back 2,500 to 3,000 years.

By analyzing numerous coins the researchers are able to piece together whether the silver or gold bullion used to make the currency was acquired in large batches, piecemeal, or whether the coins were simply restruck from other coins.

That information helps form a picture of the civilization they came from, and the type of government and civil organization that existed at the time, Pope said.

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