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'Classical' Athenian tetradrachm series: weights and metallurgy


David Soknacki
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1.       I write to ask for help for some research I’m doing on the classical (c454 – 404 BC) series of Athenian tetradrachms.

    Is anyone able to point me to tables showing the weights and metallurgy for this series? I cannot find the information.

3       Specifically, I’m trying to find a weights-by-frequency table or graph for the classical series along the lines that Thompson assembled for the new style series

 

 

image.png.94c8f9fb4bfa0590ebb5594e0194b021.png

4       Also, I am looking for a chart or table showing percentages of various metals. Again, while I can find this information for the new styles, I cannot find it for the classical series. Here is a sample from Thompson’s reference

                      image.png.3b5e781b34a056b165f89c5588f30443.png

Any assistance readers can provide will be appreciated.

Thanks so much

D

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Posted (edited)

Here's an image of Table 1, Weights of Tetradrachms, from Chester Starr's work on Athenian transitional owls.  I'm sorry about the somewhat distorted image.  I didn't want to put too much pressure on the book's spine.  

The group above the dividing line is the archaic owls that Starr included in his analysis.  The letters are Seltman's designation for grouping archaic owls.  Below the line are Starr's groups, I to V.

Metallurgical data are more hard to locate.  I'll keeping looking. 

Hope this helps

780975892_D-CameraStarrTable1-owlsdistributedbyweightandgroup6-8-21.jpg.9b8c42835cfe3ca3d90e87d8dc0097ab.jpg

 

Edited by robinjojo
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I do not believe that any effort has been made to study the Athenian mass coinage 454-404 BC other than the rather basic attempt made by Flament in 2007 in which he divided the series into three categories which he numbered 1 through III. He also illustrated a number of coins grouping them into these three categories. Because of the sheer scale of the coinage I am not even certain that anyone has even started a comprehensive die study. Nor has there been any studies in weights or metallurgy.   As to weights the only references that exists are the ones found in auction cats or FPL's of the specific coins within. 

Athens Ar Tetradrachm  415-410 BC Obv Helmeted head of Athena Right. Rv Owl walking left head facing.  Flament Group III Obv III 16 Rv III d 17.20 grms 22 mm Phot by W. Hansen330983823_athens13-Copy.jpeg.73c7191ccca34c2eff4712a6614f9703.jpeg

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Thank you for your response @kapphnwn

I too did think of creating my own table from a site such as acsearch. While there's lots of data on weights, it is skewed because it only represents pieces suitable for auction.  I was hoping to find data directly assembled from hoards.

If there is nothing else available, I'll see what information I can pull from a volume of Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards.

It seems like there's the opportunity for a good thesis or two to be written ...

Thanks again.

D

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Also to be considered, is the large numbers of plated coins, possibly issued by the Athenian government itself during the latter part of the Peloponnesian War. Judging from the huge number of coins with test  cuts from this period it would seem to indicate somebody turned out a lot of these debased coins.

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Posted (edited)

Actually bonified Athenian owls, owls produced by Athens in the waning years of the war are quite rare.  I've seen lots of plated owls offered as Athenian in origin, but I think they were produced elsewhere, just based on style.

Here's a plated owl that I purchased from CNG back in 1991.

Athens plated tetradrachm, circa 406-404 BC.

Sear 2535

13.80 grams

606468827_D-CameraAthensPlatedTetradrachmFirstOwlc.406-404BCAbt.EF5-12-20.jpg.988f80f29b6be0831217dd11a5d27f24.jpg

 

 

 

 

Edited by robinjojo
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Speaking of weighty owls, here's a recent acquisition, an intermediate owl.  At 17.47 grams it is one of the heavier examples in the collection.

 

Athens owl, intermediate Pi-style III, circa 353-340 BC, 17.47 grams.  From Roma E-Sale 99, lot 115.

1172255124_D-CameraAthensowlintermediatePi-styleIIIc353-340BC17.47gheavyRoma991157-17-22.jpg.41b2f6df057b212e2224116dfaf36d85.jpg

 

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10 hours ago, David Soknacki said:

I too did think of creating my own table from a site such as acsearch. While there's lots of data on weights, it is skewed because it only represents pieces suitable for auction.  I was hoping to find data directly assembled from hoards.

I've tried to look up published hoard reports on Athens tetradrachms before, I'm sure I've seen them (and some of the Eastern and Egyptian types, which you'd have to figure out how to separate). I haven't checked IGCH or coinhoards.org, but with a very rough unfiltered search of JSTOR for Athens Hoard Tetradrachms, I get 966 results.

(For anyone interested -- I highly recommend it -- JSTOR will give a free account with email registration and 100 articles per month, as well as the "open source" articles anyone can read; occasionally I encounter a listing I can't read, but not very often. If you have a university library account it's generally already available.)

Of course, most of those JSTOR results are obviously unsuitable: Not hoard reports at all, or hoards of Alexander III Tetradrachms, Ptolemaic Bronze, etc. But that's easy to see when scrolling through the list. Some appear to be hoards of Athens Tetradrachms from Egypt (Milne 1933, Robinson 1947, Zervos 1974) or the Levant (Anderson & van Alfen 2008), which may include or consist of imitations. There appear to be plenty of "New Style" hoard reports (e.g.., Thompson 1964, Thompson 1966, Thompson 1967).

For Buxton 2009 (the "Northern Syria 2007 hoard" of >2,600 Athens tetradrachms) you'd have to check what kind they are. Likewise the Anderson & van Alfen (2008) "fourth century BCE hoard from the near east."

That's a quick look at the first two pages (of 39, some of which will be useless, though). I'd think you can find some useful data in there. It seems like I may have seen others available free online from journals indexed at persee-fr (Revue Numismatique) and www.e-periodica.ch (Schweizer Münzblätter, Schweizerische Numismatische Rundschau) and other online numismatic journals (there are quite a few, especially if you speak German! unfortunately my German only gets me through the basics).

As for sampling ACSearch... That's probably the direction I would want to go, depending on the ultimate purpose, but trying to check if they are representative of "the population" against some kind of minimal hoard data. You might even create a weight distribution of the classical tets. in the collections of ANS or BNF or BMC or SMB, since, presumably, they are going to be closer to the "real thing" and less influenced by commercial biases.

Even if the mean/median for ACSearch are roughly accurate (maybe they are, maybe not), the tail ends of the distribution may not be. You could compare the weight distributions from a sample from ACSearch with whatever you can find from a hoard report or museum populations, and see if they differ substantially. That would go a long ways toward satisfying many readers. (There are specific statistical tests for whether the shape of their distributions differ meaningfully between two samples, though I don't remember what they are called.)

I wouldn't be surprised if the ACSearch coins were roughly comparable to coins "in the wild," but I also wouldn't be surprised if they had fewer coins of lower weight. (Or if higher weight, more valuable coins, tended to be sold repeatedly more often -- which is something else you'd want to minimize: repeat observations of the same coin.) Then again, maybe uncleaned hoard report coins will be heavier than shiny market-ready tetradrachms?

No perfect answers for those kinds of methodological problem, but there may be workable solutions.

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