Money and Ritual in the Greco-Roman World

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August 27, 2015 – In the last two decades, the archaeology of Greek and Roman ritual has become one of the central research topics in international scholarship: Archaeologists, ancient historians, anthropologists, and scholars in religious studies have recognized the materiality of ancient ritual practices and its various manifestations as key scholarly themes.
While the meaning of votive statuary and so-called monumental sacred architecture or the function(s) of ‘humbler’ materials such as figurines, pottery, and lead tablets have been long studied carefully, coins recovered in ritual contexts have not yet received the attention they certainly deserve.

As opposed to other objects used in a ritual context, our understanding of coinage is largely biased by an assumed function as solely general-purpose money in the context of trade and commerce. Yet, the picture that emerges from several numismatic studies that place coins in their archaeological contexts is rather different. A growing amount of material evidence indicates that coins played an important role in the performance of rituals in the Ancient Mediterranean World and served both ceremonial and religious functions in various spheres of daily life. Thanks to their functional complexity and polyvalence, coins occupied a prominent place in ancient rituals: for example, they could substitute or symbolize actual objects, they could function as tokens for the value of votive offerings, or they could be dedicatory objects for their own (monetary and/or aesthetic) value.

This international workshop aims to address the nexus of coin use and ritual practice in a diachronic approach that will cover primarily the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Discussions will include both the religious agency of coins as objects and the human involvement in the mental and practical process of symbolically charging and selecting, depositing, and finally curating coins in a sacred context. Archaeologists, numismatists, and anthropologists will present their research and thus actively contribute to this timely topic.

The workshop will take place on October 15-16, 2015 at the Institut für Klassische Archäologie, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, Burgsteige 11, 72070 Tübingen, Germany. It is organized by Stefan Krmnicek (University of Tübingen) and Ioannis Mylonopoulos (Columbia University).


Thursday 15 October
10.00 Welcome and opening remarks
10.30 Key note

  • David Wigg-Wolf (German Archaeological Institute): Transcending boundaries: Money as a ‘general purpose medium’ of ritual

11.00 Coffee and tea
11.30 Session I: The deposition of coins: ritual or not?

  • Adrian Chadwick (University of Leicester), Eleanor Ghey (British Museum) & Adam Rogers (University of Leicester): Ritual or mundane? Contextual and relational approaches to coin deposition in Iron Age and Roman Britain
  • Francesca Diosono (Ludwig Maximilians University Munich), Giovanna Battaglini (University of Perugia) & Alberto Martín Esquivel (University of Salamanca): Thesauri and numismatic discoveries at Fregellae: Daily use and ritual offerings
  • Corey J. Ellithorpe (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): Reverse type preferencing for ritualistic consumption? A new examination of Roman Imperial coinage found in sacred contexts

13:00 Lunch
14.30 Session II: The deposition of coins in ritual contexts: Between symbolism and participation

  • Joris Aarts (University of Amsterdam): The metaphors of travel and fertility in the ritual deposition of coins in the Roman era
  • Sophia Zoumbaki (National Hellenic Research Foundation): Money and participation in Ancient Greek cult practice. Evidence from Macedonia, the Peloponnese, and the Aegean Islands

15.30 Coffee and tea
16.00 Session III: Coins as votive offerings?

  • Philippa Walton (Ashmolean Museum Oxford): Objects of devotion? Interpreting the function of coinage found at Romano-British temple and shrine sites
  • Sean V. Leatherbury (Getty Research Institute): Coins as votive gifts in the Late Antique East

18.00 Reception at the Museum of the University MUT, Ancient Cultures

Friday 16 October
09.30 Session IV: Coins in sanctuaries: A geographical approach

  • Nikos Akamatis (International Hellenic University): An interpretation of the numismatic material from three sanctuaries of Pella, Macedonia
  • Alenka Miškec (National Museum of Slovenia): Money and ritual: Two case studies in the territory of present day Slovenia
  • Ivan Valchev (Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski): Coins in the sanctuaries of Roman Thrace

11.00 Coffee and tea
11.30 Session V: Coins in sanctuaries: Money and divine recipients

  • Aynur-Michèle-Sara Karatas (University of Bristol): The significance of money for the cult and sanctuaries of Demeter
  • Gunnar Dumke (Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg): Ptolemaic coin hoards and Egyptian sanctuaries
  • Katherine M. Erdman (University of Minnesota): The ritual role of coins at spring sanctuaries in Eastern Gaul

13.00 Concluding remarks and farewell lunch

All are welcome. There is no formal registration, but indication of intent to attend would be useful for planning purposes.

For more information or to register your intent to attend, please contact the co-organiser, Stefan Krmnicek, Universität Tübingen

… or visit the website of the Institut für Klassische Archäologie, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen.