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Full Article: Authenticating Coins Of The 'Roman Emperor' Sponsian

 
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 Posted 11/23/2022  5:30 pm Show Profile   Check louisvillekyshop's eBay Listings Bookmark this topic Add louisvillekyshop to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Abstract

The 'Roman emperor' Sponsian is known only from an assemblage of coins allegedly found in Transylvania (Romania) in 1713. They are very unlike regular Roman coins in style and manufacture, with various enigmatic features including bungled legends and historically mixed motifs, and have long been dismissed as poorly made forgeries. Here we present non-destructive imaging and spectroscopic results that show features indicative of authenticity. Deep micro-abrasion patterns suggest extensive circulation-wear. Superficial patches of soil minerals bound by authigenic cement and overlain by oxidation products indicate a history of prolonged burial then exhumation. These observations force a re-evaluation of Sponsian as a historical personage. Combining evidence from the coins with the historical record, we suggest he was most likely an army commander in the isolated Roman Province of Dacia during the military crisis of the 260s CE, and that his crudely manufactured coins supported a functioning monetary economy that persisted locally for an appreciable period.

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/a...pone.0274285
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 Posted 11/23/2022  8:08 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add livingwater to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very interesting, in-depth research, thanks for sharing.
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 Posted 11/23/2022  9:41 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Kushanshah to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
While there may be stronger evidence now that the pieces are ancient, not everyone is on board with the historical conclusion:

"They've gone full fantasy," said Richard Abdy, the curator of Roman and iron age coins at the British Museum. "It's circular evidence. They're saying because of the coin there's the person, and the person therefore must have made the coin."

https://www.theguardian.com/science...y-scientists

It will be interesting to follow the discussion as it unfolds.
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 Posted 11/23/2022  11:45 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
What they need, for conclusive proof, is more evidence - ideally, from more coins, found in a proper archaeological context. If the coins were indeed part of a "functioning economy", there should be plenty more coins out there to find.

Nobody was certain that Domitian II actually existed, and made coins... until they found a second coin in a proper archaeological context, buried deep in a jar all cemented together with a couple hundred other coins. That find proved that the single coin found in Domitian II's name in France in the 1800s was actually real too.

What I don't see them addressing anywhere is this: if the "Sponsian" coins are really ancient, and if the same person that cast the Sponsian coins also cast some bogus Gordian III gold coins (because they agree the coins were all made by the same hand, albeit from different batches of gold at different times)... then why are we accrediting any authenticity to coins manufactured by a proven counterfeiter?

Maybe there really was an ancient goldsmith living beyond Imperial borders, casting fake/replica Roman coins, and using the name "Sponsian" on some of his replica coins. But what if it was our hypothetical goldsmith whose name was "Sponsian"? If I were mucking around making fake coins for jewellery or personal pleasure, I'd probably put my own name and face on them, just for funsies; Daniel Carr and plenty of other coiners in more modern times have done likewise. Anybody doing so under such circumstances wouldn't have to fear Imperial retribution if they're living outside of Imperial territory. No need to invent an entirely hypothetical "emperor", when alternative explanations exist.
Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise, you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. - C. S. Lewis
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 Posted 11/24/2022  02:34 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add sel_69l to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I find the well researched evidence on the existence of Sponsian interesting, and well worth further investigation.
I agree with Sap that more coins need to be found in their historical context.
That evidence may, or may not, be forthcoming.

Such is the nature of archaeological investigation.
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 Posted 11/24/2022  02:52 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add january1may to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Maybe there really was an ancient goldsmith living beyond Imperial borders, casting fake/replica Roman coins, and using the name "Sponsian" on some of his replica coins. But what if it was our hypothetical goldsmith whose name was "Sponsian"? If I were mucking around making fake coins for jewellery or personal pleasure, I'd probably put my own name and face on them, just for funsies; Daniel Carr and plenty of other coiners in more modern times have done likewise. Anybody doing so under such circumstances wouldn't have to fear Imperial retribution if they're living outside of Imperial territory. No need to invent an entirely hypothetical "emperor", when alternative explanations exist.


Alternately Sponsian could have been the guy who provided the goldsmith with that particular batch of gold...


EDIT: I actually really like that second explanation - different people calling in the same goldsmith with different designs to be minted, as if he was a 3rd century version of Matthew Boulton.
One guy wanted Plautius coins, another was interested in Philip or Gordian, and then someone was named Sponsian and wanted some for himself. I imagine that in 3rd century Dacia not a lot of people could have actually read those letterings...
Edited by january1may
11/24/2022 03:01 am
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 Posted 11/24/2022  07:00 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Let's not forget, these fake coins were all (allegedly) found in a single hoard. So whoever held them in ancient times had acquired them all, at the same time, and/or buried them all together at the same time. So if they were made-to-order for different customers, they never got split up and dispersed amongst those clients, so they're just as likely to be the goldsmith's stockpile of scrap gold: trial casts, or rejects, intended to be remelted again.Except, apparently, they weren't found with a whole pile of scrap gold (unless they were, and the Hungarian officials forgot to mention this fact).
Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise, you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. - C. S. Lewis
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 Posted 11/24/2022  08:04 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add january1may to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
So if they were made-to-order for different customers, they never got split up and dispersed amongst those clients, so they're just as likely to be the goldsmith's stockpile of scrap gold: trial casts, or rejects, intended to be remelted again.
The counterpoints against this option are that 1) some of the coins are silver, not gold, and 2) apparently they show signs of circulation?

Honestly if not for the weirdness of having this much gold at once I'd suggest it was local product for the local village that wasn't dispersed much outside the village.
Some kind of 3rd century mine scrip, perhaps, where anyone trying to peddle those outside the immediate surroundings of the mine would have serious problems with the law.

I do wonder how plausible it is that there was lots of other stuff in the hoard that never made it into the press report.
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