I have very little time to write just now, and about eight blog posts existing only as titles and skeletons held together with a few sinewy links. In the meantime, you can have this. A couple of things have passed over my scanner at work lately that made me want to tell someone about them, and even though they’re not remotely medieval I fear you, dear readers, are that someone… From the ridiculous to the sublime, first off let me show you this.
It’s not terribly pretty now, I know, but this is in fact the single most GLAM ancient coin type there is. To the average numismatic expert, yes, it’s just a piece of bronze small change from Smyrna struck under Vespasian in the name of his sons, in 75-76 AD. But it’s the moneyer that makes the difference, for his name is on the coin, and it was Marcus Vettianus Bolanos. MARC BOLAN. Truly, this guy was the metal guru.
But seriously folks. Here are some more nondescript bits of bronze.
Now, what these are is coins of two of the types that were issued as your basic small change in Judæa under Pontius Pilate. The upper one’s from 29 AD, the lower from 30 AD, just before a certain Saviour of us all started his ministry, at least as long as one accepts him as historical. These aren’t the thirty pieces of silver, which presumably would have been regular denarii from some of the big mints nearby, but the average bronze small change of the day-to-day. What this means is that, if you’d had a shop in Nazareth, for example, and one of the window-frames had gone rotten, and you’d called in a carpenter to fix it, and Joseph & Son had been nearest or cheapest or whatever, these are the coins with which you’d have paid Jesus for fixing your window. I’m just saying.
(All images copyright the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and not to be reproduced without permission. The actual coins belong to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, who have for some years kindly allowed the Samuel Savage Lewis Collection to be deposited in the Museum.)