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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: Ancient pendant? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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AquilaSPQR
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« on: March 12, 2017, 06:36:41 am »

I decided to post this thread here, because this subforum has "The stories behind the coins..." subtitle and that's exactly what I'm interested in right now. I've found this coin a week ago (outside the land of the former Roman empire, actually few hundred kilometers from the old Roman limes), together with two other denarii (the other ones - Hadrian and Trajan were not pierced). It's the first such coin I have and I'm extremely curious about its history.

It seems it was meant to be worn as a pendant because the hole is right above the Heliogabal's head (and also directly above Providentia's making it an even better choice for a pendant than other denarii with more typical die axis).

Can anything more be told about that coin? What was more probable - that it was pierced and worn (if it was indeed worn) by Romans or the "barbarians" (or both)? I can imagine barbarians wearing such things like jewellery or even amulets, but what about Romans - were such pendants popular among them back then? I know I'll never know who exactly did it to that particular coin and why, but I'd love to learn as much as I can about such coins in general. So far I've only found this:

http://www.forumancientcoins.com/moonmoth/holed_coins.html

The coin is in quite good condition so it seems it was pierced and lost or buried shortly after it was minted.



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Jay GT4
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2017, 07:00:57 am »

Nice coin! It's really all just speculation isn't it?  I have a few pierced coins myself.  Sometimes you can tell which side it was pierced from by examining the metal around the hole.  That will then give you an idea of which side was "displayed". 
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otlichnik
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2017, 08:22:58 am »

Both scenarios are proven fact, which ironically means that it is impossible to tell for sure which is the case with any given coin.

Fairly current, or contemporaneous, holed coins have been found in Roman graves.  They are usually associated with a child's bulla.  A bulla is a necklace for a child.  It had apatropaic powers - that is it was believed to be able to protect the child from harm and evil through its magic warding powers.  The bulla was removed when a child finished adolescence.  In addition to a specific small capsule holding a charm - which is itself known as a bulla - the entire bulla necklace could have many items on it like a modern charm bracelet.  They are known with coins, beads, bits of shell or ostrich egg, small egyptian figures, etc.  Though not proven, I suspect that the coins were also believed to have apatropaic powers.

Your coin would combine the powers of providentia with that of the Sun god, through his high priest Elagabalus.

However, holed coins are also found in graves, including as part of necklaces or earrings, as late as tenth century Magyar graves - and maybe even later.  In these later graves they are not limited to child's graves and we don't know exactly why they were used.

There are two clues with yours.  A few hundred km beyond the limes and its good condition. 

My guess would therefore be used by a "barbarian", fairly contemporaneously with its issues - i.e. maybe sometime in the mid to late 3rd century.  But for unknown reasons - jewellery, magic protection, luck?

Shawn
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SC
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2017, 03:34:27 pm »

It looks as though the hole was punched from the obverse side in this case.
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2017, 06:18:55 pm »

A friend of mine has a collection of late Roman solidi that belonged to his grandmother, who lived in Cyprus during the Ottoman Empire. Most of the solidi were holed so that they could be sewn into blankets in order to hide them from Ottoman officials. Maybe a similar scenario called for the present coin to be pierced.
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JamesC11
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2017, 12:09:30 pm »

Some of these might have been used for target practice by people (can there have been many?) who didn't care for the Romans, or for a particular emperor anyway.  Political furor isn't new!
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Joe Sermarini
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« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2017, 06:26:29 pm »

Many coins are holed randomly, so if strung and worn as a necklace, the images would have been upside down or sideways. Your coin was almost certainly strung to be worn on a necklace.

There were many barbarians that served in the Roman army and many probably came home with some Roman money. Perhaps a former auxiliary wore this coin to remember his time fighting for Rome during the rule of Elagabalus.
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AquilaSPQR
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« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2017, 11:37:01 am »

Thanks for all your replies. It indeed looks like someone considered obverse as the "main" side, since it looks like it was punched from the obverse. Now, when I'm almost certain it was indeed worn as a pendant in the antiquity - I can proceed to the next part of my plan. I'm going to take this coin to the jeweller and ask him to make a loop from silver wire so that this coin could be worn again, after about 1600-1800 years of sitting in the ground.
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otlichnik
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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2017, 04:21:05 pm »

It was probably punched through from the obverse side.  But it looks like it was then cleaned out from both sides with a small chisel or blade.  The hole looks to be bevelled from both sides now (unless that is a trick of the photography).  That would be a sign of some care being used in making the hole.

SC
 
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SC
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