Ancient Coins from Roman Empire Identified
The largest haul of ancient coins ever found has revealed new secrets thanks to the painstaking work of a team of Italian experts.
Specialists at the Italian National Research Council (CNR) have just concluded a two-year project involving the analysis and restoration of the cache of Roman coins, which was discovered by accident in Libya nearly 30 years ago. ''As well as the number of coins, this haul is exceptional as it sheds new light on so many areas,'' said Salvatore Garraffo of the CNR's Cultural Applied Technology Institute.
''It provides information about the history of the economy, about the circulation of currency in the area during the first half of the 4th century AD, about metallurgy and about monetary production at the time''.
The cache, which was unearthed during agricultural work outside the city of Misurata, Libya comprises 108,000 coins dating to between 294 and 333 AD.
The coins were found inside large amphorae and pitchers that had been buried near the remains of two buildings. Archaeologists believe these were probably part of a staging point and horse-changing complex used by the state-run courier and transportation service of the Roman Empire, the cursus publicus. Alternatively, the buildings may have been used by officials traveling on Empire business.
The coins were nummi, a collective name for different denominations of copper-alloy coins introduced by the emperor Diocletian at the end of the 3rd century AD. The studies by the CNR have revealed that the coins were generally made of a copper-tin-lead alloy. Some also contained a small quantity of silver, a fine layer of which was used to coat the surface of the coin. The tests have sought to identify the precise percentage of silver in the coins, as well as revealing the manufacturing methods used. This information can be used by archaeologists to reconstruct inflation levels and help them calculate periods of financial uncertainty or times in which there were currency crises. Diocletian's era is described as a time when the currency lost most of its value, as Diocletian introduced programs to preserve the Roman Empire, which was already in full collapse by the time he took rule. His programs eliminated personal freedoms and rendered the Roman citizens serfs.
The CNR has involved Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics in the testing process, using radioactive analysis to prevent the coins from being damaged by any invasive procedures. In addition to the testing and restoration, the coins have also been digitally cataloged to allow archaeologists in all parts of the world to continue learning from the cache.
In these days when economists are having a religious battle over hard money and fiat money, this research is even more interesting, as Italy's history from the Roman Republic, to Florence in the Renaissance and Venice's Maritime Republic, coinage and currency value and inflation is an integral part of a region's rise and eventual fall. Currency devaluation, inflation, and government treating its citizens like serfs certainly led to the fall of the Roman Empire. The Empire began after the Roman Republic in 44 B.C. By 250 AD the coinage was printed with a ratio of silver that was noticeably less than the prior 300 years manifesting a debasement and decline in the Empire due to it hitting a financial wall.
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