Ancient Coins and Looting

Preserving the context

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2014.—Ed.


 
Ancient coins provide a precise chronology when discovered in context. Unfortunately, they are also some of the most frequently looted artifacts and are often traded without regulation.

Ancient coins provide a precise chronology when discovered in context. Unfortunately, they are also some of the most frequently looted artifacts and are often traded without regulation.

“Let’s think of an ancient coin as a murder weapon. No one would disagree that going into a crime scene before the investigators arrive and absconding with the bloody knife, cleaning it and then putting it in a private collection would seriously compromise the case. But this is what happens when looters descend on an archaeological site and remove coins and other artifacts: They disturb objects, their relationships with one another and remove evidence that may well be the ‘smoking gun’ for an excavation.”

So writes Baylor University professor and Huqoq numismatist Nathan T. Elkins in Investigating the Crime Scene: Looting and Ancient Coins in the July/August 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. In his Archaeological Views column, Elkins describes the importance of ancient coins as primary chronological indicators. When found under sealed floors, foundations or walls, they can provide definitive chronological evidence. Unfortunately, they are also the most widely collected and sought-after artifact type, and millions of coins enter the market each year from unrecorded digs.
 


 
Do museums and educational organizations have the right to sell antiquities from their collections? This was the question the AIA-St. Louis Society faced when artifacts from its Egyptian collection were put up for auction. Learn more >>
 


 
Looted ancient coins do still provide information for numismatists who want to study, say, iconography. But Elkins notes that ancient coins’ iconography, archaeology, text and inscription are all pieces of the same historical puzzle, and we must “endeavor to preserve, and encourage the preservation of, as much information as possible.”

If archaeologists are the detectives of history, then ancient coins are the “smoking guns” of the ancient crime scene, according to Elkins. Detectives reconstruct crimes by looking at the relationships between weapons, footprints, fingerprints, broken glass and other evidence. Archaeologists do the same by analyzing artifacts within their find contexts. Looting not only removes valuable evidence from the equation—such as dates or imperial faces inscribed on ancient coins—but also scatters the primary context of the disturbed area, destroying our ability to recreate the story behind the evidence.

——————

BAS Library Members: Read Investigating the Crime Scene: Looting and Ancient Coins by Nathan T. Elkins as it appears in the July/August 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

From Babylon to Baghdad: Ancient Iraq and the Modern West examines the relationship between ancient Iraq and the origins of modern Western society. This free eBook details some of the ways in which ancient Near Eastern civilizations have impressed themselves on Western culture and chronicles the present-day fight to preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage.

Learn more about ancient coins in Bible History Daily:

Roman Emperor Nerva’s Reform of the Jewish Tax by Nathan T. Elkins

Gold Nero Coin Comes to Light in Jerusalem

Rare Roman Gold Coin Minted by Trajan Found

Judaea Capta Coin Uncovered in Bethsaida Excavations

Coins Celebrating the Great Revolt Against the Romans Unearthed near Jerusalem

How Ancient Jews Dated Years
 


 
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on June 18, 2014.
 


 

Posted in Cultural Heritage.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Add Your Comments

One Response

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.


Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.


Send this to a friend

Hello! You friend thought you might be interested in reading this post from https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org:
Ancient Coins and Looting!
Here is the link: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/archaeology-today/cultural-heritage/ancient-coins-and-looting/
Enter Your Log In Credentials...

Change Password

×