The advancement of technology has not only revolutionized how precious metals are mined and how coins are minted. It is also helping historians, numismatists, and even collectors to better study the coins from the distant past that still survive today!
A recent report in Forbes by Dr. Sarah Bond, a professor at the University of Iowa who holds a PhD in Ancient History, details the many fascinating features of a sprawling digital database of ancient coins known as MANTIS. The database is maintained by the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and includes a staggering catalog of ancient coins.
More than 600,000 coins, medals, and tokens are recorded in MANTIS, along with key information such as historical dates, specifications, and dazzling color images that you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Dr. Bond references newly-published work by the ANS that explores the depiction of ancient architecture on Roman coins in particular. Inasmuch as impressive monuments like the Colosseum were a form of propaganda meant to aggrandize leaders and their accomplishments, coinage bearing images of such architecture was likewise a form of pro-state propaganda. Bond notes that it was undoubtedly used as “a visual message of victory and strength” by the emperor. This highlights yet another reason why ancient coins are such important objects of historical, archaeological, and anthropological inquiry.
Such insightful analysis and academic work would be made much more difficult without the aid of a tech-savvy resource like the MANTIS database. In addition, the ANS services allow users to trace where a particular coin may have been minted in antiquity. Given the vastly different civilizations, cultures, and territorial boundaries that existed during ancient times, contemporary students and collectors can gain a great deal of context from this handy tool. It also democratizes access to the information once only contained in official archives, making it available to anyone with an internet connection.
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