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Old Dec 22, 2008, 01:19 PM   #1
4to2centophilia
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Byzantine hoard discovered

Discovered in Israel

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/...ins/index.html
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Old Dec 22, 2008, 01:29 PM   #2
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Salem wasn't fast enough to get it

Jérôme
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Old Dec 22, 2008, 01:57 PM   #3
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Now, if the archeological community were smart, they would display 1-10 coins from this hoard, then sell the rest to fund this dig and others as funds would allow. It's a common type and what's the benefit of having 260 some odd coins sitting in a storage vault at the museum?

J
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Old Dec 22, 2008, 01:58 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roma_Orbis View Post
Salem wasn't fast enough to get it

Jérôme

Funny, I thought the same thing.
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Old Dec 22, 2008, 02:34 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cogito View Post
Now, if the archeological community were smart, they would display 1-10 coins from this hoard, then sell the rest to fund this dig and others as funds would allow. It's a common type and what's the benefit of having 260 some odd coins sitting in a storage vault at the museum?

J
Common? An interesting conclusion. Can you tell me how you got there? From where I sit (pasting several submissions I've sent to the Moneta list today):

My initial reaction to reading this article:

What a beautiful hoard of coins! From the small photo, not produced in high quality so as to be able to be enlarged without heavy pixelization, I can't say for certain they are all Heraclius. I would love to read the report on the contents of the hoard, since the report says "They were in a collapsed building that dates back to the 7th century, the end of the Byzantine period. The coins bear a likeness of Heraclius, who was the Byzantine emperor from 610 to 641." That is the correct regnal period for Heraclius, but unless they mean the "starting end" of the Byzantine period instead of the "finishing end", the reported is a bit confused. I know, I'm just being curmudgeony. I just think that someone should go over all of the details in coin reports before they get published so as to not confuse the general public. It's obvious from the photo they are solidi and the types are from the beginning of the Byzantine empire, even with the small photo. Wrong beard type for Phocas. Could be Maurice Tiberius, but doesn't look like it from the width of the portraits. If they are all Heraclius, this would be interesting and would date the hoard to a small window, since most of Heraclius' solidi have more than one portrait. These, showing a silngle figure on the obverse, would date to probably 610/613 and appears to be the work of the Constantinople mint, like this piece I had:



It really is hard to tell with the small photo and I wish they would have provided one which could be enlarged with some definition. The Jerusalem mint sole portrait solidi for Heraclius look a lot like Phocas with a football head and pointy beard.

At least they didn't call it the "Romaion period"

There's a video here:

http://in.reuters.com/news/video?vid...=lifestyleMolt

showing much better details of the coins. (submitted by John Hooker)

John,

Great! Thanks for sharing. Much better images (although I didn't see the point of pouring the coins on top of each other in the different scenes except to dramatize the number of coins found, but possibly damaging them as they came in contact with each other) and the coins look rather interesting. I still can't read the full obverse legend on any of them, but can see they have a legend break of ..._VS P P AVG, which can work for Heraclius. The reverse legend ends in a delta for officina 4 and with three steps under the cross potent, we are narrowed down to SB 731-733. And here is where it gets interesting. We can rule out SB 732 as it has an N in the reverse right field. We can also eliminate SB 733 as that has an I in the reverse right field. We are left with SB 731, which is A) not attested for officina 4 (is it in DOC I wonder?) and B) only has CONOB in the exergue where the hoard coins have CONOB pellet. I wish they would have shot just one image of the obverse and reverse of a single coin. From the images I've seen, this hoard looks like the entire output of a single issue minted and sent to Jerusalem for some reason. Fascinating stuff!

Comment from Brian Holland:

"Perhaps this hoard will provide evidence in the ongoing debate as to whether some of the early Heraclius solidii were struck at a temporary mint in Jerusalem. As I recall it was only the 2nd type that were struck there, i.e. after 613 AD where younger portrait of son Constantine shares the obverse stage with Heraclius."

My reply to Brian - Well, to me it doesn't look like the work of the Jerusalem mint. SB 850 is disputed for mint, but Sear puts it in Jerusalem (DOC in Alexandria; BMC in Constantinople; BN in Alexandria and MIB in Cyprus). CNG went with Cyprus or Syria on it (don't know if they agreed with Glenn Woods' tag and cataloguing or came up with that themselves):



http://www.coinarchives.com/a/lotvie...ID=73&Lot=1094

The only other SB Jerusalem solidi are SB 851-853 and are dual portrait.



http://www.coinarchives.com/a/lotvie...ID=88&Lot=1142

and the attribution to Jerusalem of those pieces are debated as well (citing mints all over the place by the various references).

Although we don't have a nice image of a single coin to determine the exact obverse legend, we will assume the attribution to Heraclius is correct because we have to make that assumption for now. As such, what do we know for know, based on the very limited information we have?

A) The coins appear to all be from the same dies
B) The coins are all minty fresh, which eliminates this being a collected hoard over a period of time
C) The coins are all well-struck and perfectly centered, which is flipping amazing as any collector of Byzantine solidi will attest
D) The coins, unless I'm overlooking it in the references, have an unattested officina as well as an unattested exergual mark
E) Looking very carefully, there is a series mark of some pellets or a line or something in the plume, which is also unattested as far as I know.

What we don't know

A) What was the building?

Since the archaeologists are making the jump from dating the coins to 610-613 to the building having been probably destroyed by the Persian invasion in 614, they are making some hypotheses which may not be safe. It is entirely possible they may have discovered a cache of ancient forgeries in the destroyed building of a forger after he or she was discovered. Or, they have discovered some kind of payment which came directly from the mint. Or, they have found a satellite official mint operation which was destroyed by the city inhabitants so the Persians would have less chance of finding the gold to take back with them.

We REALLY need to see an example of one coin's obverse and reverse to glean more info from this puzzle. Some weights would also be nice. And an analysis of the composition of a random sample.

Seriously. I hope the team is going to work with someone from our end of the historical pursuit instead of shunning us all of the time. We could really help them understand what they are uncovering.

--Beast
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Old Dec 22, 2008, 02:51 PM   #6
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Freeze frame the video and it's clear these aren't "Jerusalem" mint issues. Looks like SB 731 to me, perhaps an new officina, D, perhaps an A. There's one coin that looks like it has a pellet or something after the mint mark, but none of the others do so I assume it's just a scratch, die break, dirt or something else. At least from the photos and the video provided, looks like a rather boring hoard in my opinion, even with a new officina.

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Old Dec 22, 2008, 02:59 PM   #7
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Barry,

I've been looking at various freeze frames of this video all day and every single piece looks the same to me. Same dies, everything. And how in the world do you get a perfect strike and centering on every example? You and I have had enough Byzantine solidi in our lives to know how hard it is to get perfect centering and strength of strike on one example, let alone 250+ examples. Something just doesn't sit right with me on this.

And to me it looks like there is CONOB pellet on all of the coins, all officina 4 and all with the strange mark on the plume on the portrait.

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Old Dec 22, 2008, 03:11 PM   #8
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You guys are good to see a pellet in there. It's pretty pixelated. Here is a snapshots if it helps.

This looks like the perfect hoard.*

*Disclaimer: I'm not in any way suggesting that they are not genuine.
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Old Dec 22, 2008, 03:11 PM   #9
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My first reaction to the headline "rare coins" was to check the coins to see if they were rare. They seemed to be rather common to me. I read through all of this thread, but maybe Iam missing something.

What did appear rare (as mentioned below) was their condition, strike and centering.

What bothered me about the video was the handling of the coins. They use a paintbrush to delicately sweep away the debris and then slosh them about wantonly.

Has to be a good $120k retail sitting there.

I agree with Jeff. Keep a few and sell the rest. I would pick one up at a premium just to have an EF+ example from a recorded hoard.

As to whether they are genuine............well, they really do look identical and perfect.

Mark
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Old Dec 22, 2008, 03:22 PM   #10
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They probably are genuine, but are they official? It's a very interesting hoard and I think this would be a good exercise for archaeologists and numismatists to work together. Assuming these aren't all common SB 731s like Barry suggests they may be. If they are, then this hoard is only historically and not necessarily numismatically interesting. At least, this may broaden our knowledge of Byzantine coins, or it may not.

Mark Fox has asked the lead archaeologist for the images I requested, so if he can get them, I'll post them here for discussion.

--Beast
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Old Dec 22, 2008, 03:32 PM   #11
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Folks,

Just for reference, this is about as nice as one can reasonably hope for an SB 731:



Image courtesy Triton XII, Lot 1356, January 2005

HERACLIUS. 610-641 AD. AV Solidus (4.46 gm, 7h). Constantinople mint. Struck 610-613 AD.

Estimate $300, Hammer $600 plus buyer fees.

HERACLIUS. 610-641 AD. AV Solidus (4.46 gm, 7h). Constantinople mint. Struck 610-613 AD. dN hERACLIUS PP AVG, draped and cuirassed facing bust, with short beard, wearing crown with pendilia and plume, holding cross / VICTORIA AVGU, cross potent on three steps; E/CONOB. DOC II 3b; MIB III 5; SB 731. Superb EF. ($300)

From the Malcolm W. Heckman Collection

That's Triton folks. That will give you an idea of how difficult it is to find an example of this issue in this condition.

Typically they have some flatness to the strike somewhere:



Image courtesy Stack's, Tallent & Belzberg Collections, Lot 2334, April 2008.

I'm just saying in this condition, this had to have been specially prepared to be this nice and had to have come directly from the mint and deposited in the hiding spot or had been minted on site. They are just too nice.

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Old Dec 22, 2008, 03:50 PM   #12
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They aren't all centered the same. Look at the stills at the top of this thread. The one in the hands at 12:00 is off center towards 4:00, In the first group shot the coin kind of alone near the edge at 4:00 is off center towards 7:00, the one in Georgi's still on the bottom left side is off-center towards 6:00, if you stop- the video at 53 seconds there' one right in the middle off-center towards 12:00. I see missing letters, flat strikes etc....

They sure cleaned the coins quickly and did a pretty good job. I'm not too worried about the handling, they aren't going to do much to them by jostling them in their hands like that.

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Old Dec 22, 2008, 04:02 PM   #13
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I agree - some do look like they are not perfectly centered. Sure are nice as a group though! I would love to see those in hand and would really love to know if they are all identical. Could tell us something about die life. If all of these are from the same pair of dies, in theory we could see some die wear and be able to extrapolate potential usage. 264 specimens would be statistically significant for a sample size to do some hypothesis testing.

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Old Dec 22, 2008, 04:22 PM   #14
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An interesting aspect of the Eauze hoard of 28003 coins, mainly antoniniani and denarii: it included 2531 antoniniani of Valerian I from the same obv. die, and that die exhibited no observable signs of wear!
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Old Dec 22, 2008, 04:29 PM   #15
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And I am aware of a hoard of Ptolemy II tetradrachms all from the same pair of dies....in the neighborhood 40-50,000 coins if my memory is correct. These never entered the market and I assume are buried in the basement of the Cairo Museum. Never published, not that it would be a very interesting publication.

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