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Andrew McCabe
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« on: September 05, 2009, 02:45:49 am »

I spent all this week at the International Numismatic Congress in Glasgow. It is a once in six year event, the last being in Madrid 2003, so I think it worth a few comments. Here are a few photos from my mobile phone to give a flavour. Whilst Glasgow may look (and I think is) rather bleak, the conference as an event was probably the most interesting week in numismatics I spent in my entire life.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/sets/72157622123955989/detail/

The full agenda of the conference can be found on the INC Glasgow 2009 website.
http://www.hunterian.gla.ac.uk/inc-congress/programme.htm

As there were some 500 papers presented – averaging approximately one paper presented per delegate – no-one could review the entire congress, so my focus was naturally on the Roman Republican papers. I attended perhaps 30 lectures spread over ten or so 90 minute sessions. The quality of the lectures and related papers varied. Those by eminent numismatists were generally excellent, thought-provoking with new information decisively and clearly presented. Bernhard Woytek, Clive Stannard, Wilhelm Hollstein, Frank Berger, Jane de-Rose Evans, Vincent Genevieve, Sam Moorhead and Samuele Ranucci gave some of the best lectures for me. It is difficult to choose between them but, just as an example, I liked the clear research on site finds and local collections by Vincent Genevieve to determine the mint location of the Octavian prow denarius with ram’s head. The coin type:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3538138793/

And a sample of the presentation:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3888473747/

The systematic manner in which Frank Berger approached location finds to prove decisively the location of the Teutoburg forest battle in AD9 was a great example of how well-applied numismatic technique can answer questions that historians and archaeologists have failed at. Frank demonstrated that the exact mix and volume of coins together with related artefacts such as gambling tokens
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3889276098/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3889266372/

provided a closely bracketed date in the range 7-11AD for the site he proposed, whereas sites proposed by others fail on the numismatic evidence with coins that are either too late or too early. Many other presentations by eminent numismatists were also case studies in clarity. That the presentations were often in German, Spanish or Italian did not matter if the material was clearly presented and the speaker guided us through it slowly with the aid of visual information.

I took the opportunity to ask a question or two at many of the presentations and this was a perfect opportunity to make the acquaintance of numismatists whom I previously only knew through their books. With 30 minute breaks between each session there was ample time for follow-up questions. This in turn led to the exchange of cards, offers of further communication, and introductions to yet more people. Many of the speakers are museum curators, and it was a great opportunity for me to ask to visit their coins cabinets for the purpose of one or other research project that I have in mind. Michel Amandry for example extended an invite to visit the Bibliotheque Nationale, which contains the best, without exception, collection of Roman Republican bronzes in existences. What I liked so much of the atmosphere was that these numismatists in person proved so approachable, not at all the distant experts one might imagine.

On a related subject, several archaeologists and numismatists, once they realised I was a collector as well as a numismatic student, asked keenly of my collecting interests and focus and study areas. I felt none of the bad vibes one sometime reads about. Quite the reverse. The general sense was that serious collectors are essential for the assembly of coherent study groups of material, to work on detailed studies that curators do not have time for, for example die studies, and to provide a nucleus of interest in ancient history and archaeology amongst non-academics that will benefit historians and archaeologists as a whole. Amongst the 600 or so delegates were many pure historians and archaeologists (i.e. not numismatists per-se) and even amongst those there was a consistent view that systematic collecting of coins, for study, can only be a good thing.

This brings me to another topic, the presentations given by non-numismatists. I would classify those in three bands.

Firstly the INC sponsored 40 young students at 600 euros each to come to the conference. Many also presented papers. These often contained interesting material but sometimes had inevitable weaknesses that stem from lack of experience. The presenters were simply not old enough to have read widely enough, nor to have made the judgement calls as to what published material was valuable and what should be ignored. But there was passion in the presentations, most which contained points of interest, and all who spoke will make fine historians, numismatists or archaeologists.

Secondly, many papers were presented by archaeologists. These were usually quite excellent, with material properly analysed and conclusions properly drawn. Sam Moorhead of the British Museum for example presented on finds of individual Roman Republican coins under the Portable Antiquities Scheme, as compared with presence of Republican coins in hoard finds. He found a very consistent and mirrored pattern – the individual coins presented the same histograms as the hoards – with one specific exception there being a statistically significant peak of individual finds as against hoard data in the 120-110BC period. In the post presentation discussion I suggested that perhaps this was associated with coins struck in Gaul in that decade i.e. Crawford 282 from Narbo, in combination with the defeats suffered by the Romans from 109BC by the Cimbri in Gaul, which would have left a lot of coins as battle spoils.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3351939634/

In other words, perhaps the peak of coins from 120-110BC as individual finds related to coins that filtered through Gaul to Britain at that time, and not post-Claudian coin arrivals which would be as represented in hoards. This is a great example of how archaeologists and numismatists can improve our understanding of the ancient world when they work together.

A third tranche of papers were presented by historians. These were on balance disappointing as in several cases the historians did not appreciate some fundamental numismatic matters. For example one claimed that the presence of a counter-stamp Delta Upsilon on a Cistophorus of Mark Antony was a mint mark of a city name and that these coins were minted, with counter-stamp, prior to coins without mintmark. Any numismatist would know that one does not mint a coin and then on the same day apply a counter-stamp with mintmark to the same coin rather than simply engraving it on the die.

Moving off serious numismatics, there were many social activities during the week, notably the two receptions hosted by the Lord Provost (Mayor) at the Kelvingrove museum, and by the Royal and British Numismatic societies at the Hunterian museum.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3889266962/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3889267172/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3888476341/

These gave an opportunity to mingle with numismatists, historians and archaeologists of all interests, and one could tour the museums at the same time, so being rather efficient in our use of time in what was a very busy week! The Hunterian is of course famous for its coin cabinet, but I was rather disappointed by the publicly displayed coins, which were merely a small set of trophy coins, rather dumbed down.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3889271578/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3889267834/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3889270258/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3888477821/

The little you see above is just about the entire display. Despite the underlying collections being of similar quality, the display was as nothing compared to the quality and interest of the coins integrated into the British Museum, about which I talked about a couple of weeks back
http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=55685.0

Several trips to distilleries, lochs and glens, and the Antonine wall were also organised. As I have lived before in Scotland I opted out of these and went instead to the Burrell Collection, another gem of a museum, primarily Mediaeval, but with at least one nice ancient artefact!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahala_rome/3888479065/

The collected papers from the congress will be published some time in 2010 and the next congress will be in 2015. Based on the quality of papers from the Madrid conference, the proceedings should be well worth having. Hopefully, as with Madrid, they will be subsidised and cheap.

Should anyone have any questions on specific papers in the Roman Republican world I will be happy to answer them.

Regards
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« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2009, 12:25:47 pm »

I, for one, enjoy a review like this one (and no less the views of the museum, especially the Warwick vase, the most famous thing of its kind).  Thank you for posting it and with specific links.
Pat L.
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« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2009, 07:52:10 pm »

A splendid contribution!
Thank you!
PeteB
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« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2009, 07:34:44 am »

Aaargh! I thought it was being held in 2010. I attended the Congress in Madrid in 2003 and really enjoyed it so fully intended to go to Glasgow  Cry

Did they say where it will be held in 2015?
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« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2009, 08:51:35 am »

Are there other similar conventions held more often anywhere in the world?
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Andrew McCabe
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« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2009, 11:14:54 am »

Are there other similar conventions held more often anywhere in the world?

No. That was it. Once in six years for the entire world.

If you missed it, you have to wait until 2015. There are sometimes small specialist conventions, often by invitation only, covering perhaps a single specialist area. But absolutely nothing on this Olympian scale. Nothing even close to it.

I wrote repeatedly to numismatic discussion lists in advance of the 2009 Glasgow congress saying "make sure to come, it only costs £90". I even remember checking and quoting airfares from USA to persuade people that it was an inexpensive trip. But like with Cassandra, no one listened. I'm afraid it was not until after the congress that I get messages saying "I wish I was there". Oh well. Roll on 2015.
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« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2009, 03:57:12 pm »

I am gutted I missed this.

Such an amazing even so close to home.
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« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2009, 05:45:39 am »

It would appear that the likely candidates for 2015 are both from Italy, Padua or Messina.
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« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2009, 10:03:31 am »

It would appear that the likely candidates for 2015 are both from Italy, Padua or Messina.
This is correct. Does it come as a surprise? Italians are battling against themselves, as usual  Grin
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« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2009, 06:33:02 pm »

Somebody remind me to get my ticket next time.  Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2009, 01:40:10 pm »

It would appear that the likely candidates for 2015 are both from Italy, Padua or Messina.
This is correct. Does it come as a surprise? Italians are battling against themselves, as usual  Grin

Try telling a Sicilian that they are just Italian.
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« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2009, 02:22:16 pm »

Och! It happened just down the road from me and I didn't even know about it!. See what happens when you skip issues of CoinNews? Cry

Thank you Andrew, for your comprehensive report! It has dampened my disappointment a bit.
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« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2009, 09:48:25 am »

It would appear that the likely candidates for 2015 are both from Italy, Padua or Messina.
This is correct. Does it come as a surprise? Italians are battling against themselves, as usual  Grin
Try telling a Sicilian that they are just Italian.
Just lately, try telling a Lombard, or a Venetian...  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2009, 11:32:03 am »

Mr. McCabe thank you for your review I found it very interesting and informative.

Pete
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