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ANS Launches Bactrian Indo-Greek Rulers Site


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The American Numismatic Society (ANS) and the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents at Oxford University are pleased to announce the launch of Bactrian Indo-Greek Rulers (BIGR, numismatics.org/bigr), a new online typology and research tool for ancient Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek coinage. BIGR is a component of Hellenistic Royal Coinages (numismatics.org/hrc) and has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as a two-year joint ANS-Oxford University project. The award comes through the New Directions in Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions program that partners the NEH with the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) intended to fund trans-Atlantic co-operative projects. At the ANS, Dr. Peter van Alfen and Ethan Gruber have worked with their partners Prof. Andrew Meadows and Dr. Simon Glenn at Oxford University, who are funded by the AHRC, along with Dr. Gunnar Dumke at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg in Ge rmany, Prof. Gul Rahim Khan at the University of Peshawar, and Dr. Asma Ibrahim at the State Bank of Pakistan.

For many of the rulers of the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms, which existed between c. 250 BCE and the beginning of the first century CE and covered areas of modern Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and India, coins are often the only surviving evidence of their existence. Formed in the wake of Alexander the Great’s incursion into the region, these kingdoms remain some of the least understood and most understudied political and social entities of the ancient world. Indeed, only eight of these kings are known from literary, epigraphic, and archaeological sources, while over 40 can be identified on coins alone, an astonishing disparity in source material that underscores the importance of the numismatic evidence for our understanding of these early rulers and their interactions with those they ruled.

Tens of thousands of these coins exist today, dispersed in collections, both public and private, across the globe, not just in Europe, the UK and US, but, rather importantly, in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as well. With standard reference works out of print and only existing in French and English, it is difficult for scholars, curators in cultural institutions holding these coins, and law enforcement agencies tasked with the combatting of the illegal trade in antiquities, to engage with the material at a number of different levels. Lacking, in many cases, basic and accurate typological information describing where, when, and who produced the coins, the potential of these collections to serve as historical resources and points of reference remains currently locked. BIGR aims to resolve current cataloguing, identification and collection accessibility problems by providing a multilingual, freely accessible, and technologically sophisticated Linked Open Data web-based portal that offers a new, up-to-date typology of the coins. This new tool also allows access to the images and data of thousands of coins, initially incorporating over 4,000 coins from the collections of the ANS, Ashmolean Museum, Bibliothèque nationale de France, and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

“BIGR marks a milestone in the study of the ancient coinages from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India,” said ANS Executive Director Dr. Gilles Bransbourg, “offering a very much needed updated typology and accessible resources. We are happy to have made this possible through this international collaboration.”

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