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CELTIC-L  April 2002

CELTIC-L April 2002

Subject:

Celtic coins, was: Re: vercingetorix coins

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Thu, 25 Apr 2002 02:26:21 -0600

Content-Type:

multipart/mixed

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (427 lines) , text/plain (7 lines)

Hi Ray

>But isn`t that a rather winded and constructed explanation for what could at
>least as well be explained by a simple, little organised and rather ad hoc
>decisionmaking process? If the support was inanimously favouring one
>candidate, he got the office, if it was quite well decideable who had a
>large majority, then the one with the clearly greatest support would win the
>day, but if the situation was not clear but two or more candidates could
>mount approximately the same support, quarrels would break out that could
>even result in armed clashes? We need no constructed "Cult of the warrior",
>no huge religious contexts, and no regulated and clearly defined voting
>process, we simply need ordinary politics in situations where the one who
>could throw in far superior support would win the day, and if none could,
>the decision would be up to the one with the best fighters to back him up to
>win the office by force against opponents.

Essentially, this is what I have been saying all along. We strayed into the
religious aspects of the druids and their functions within that role, but
what I am saying is only that when Caesar says that Gaulish society was
divided into two classes, this implies that relatively large numbers of
individuals are concerned. The only other group he identifies are the
common people. To put it in a nutshell, I am starting to investigate the
possibility that the two classes could be otherwise defined as political
and military. This with the full understanding that at times these roles
would cross over, and certainly in times of war the lines would be fuzzy.
This is not that different from other societies, ancient or modern. The
political content in this case would include all religious matters.
Furthermore, religious aspects permeate the culture and enter into the
realms of the manufacture of coins and of other decorated objects. This
again is no different from what we see with the Greeks, and to a varied
degree (depending on the period) the Romans. In fact even late Roman coins
have SM in the area of the mint name (Sacra Moneta) along with the number
of the officina. It seems that entry into the class of druids required a
certain time of schooling. I suspect though, that this time varied
considerably and that the story of some taking twenty years was little more
than a fabrication used to impress. I'm not sure of the life expectancy in
Gaul and Britain at that time, but it seems that twenty years would use up
a lot of it! It would not be practical in most cases. Also, the amount of
training required would be relative to the function or specialty that one
was going to embark upon.
 

(snip)
>> Well, you seem to be the only one that denies the fact of religious
>> iconography on Celtic coins. Allen says (_Coins of the Ancient Celts_
>> Edinburgh University Press, 1980, p.132) after discussing some of the
>> problems of interpretation, "Yet collectively they remain one of the
>> most extensive and suggestive for the religion of the Celts in the
>> second and first centuries B.C."
>
>Well, I`m definitly not the only one. Dembski, to refer to a numismaticist,
>would basically agree with me on this, as, of course, would people like
>James and Chapman, and most archaeologists in general. Even more, I would
>not outright deny the probability that Celtic coinage also drew on religious
>iconography, but I would deny a necessity of druidic training of those
>making the coins as well as a general religious iconography that was only
>locally modified - even if limited to Gaulish coinage alone. In fact, not
>even the Megaws, which are the most prominent Celtomaniacs around at the
>moment would, most probably, agree with such an overarching assumption as
>you do, and with a requirement for druidic training for the artists, those
>making the coinage or those working in other materials.

LOL. Vincent Megaw has been very supportive, in fact he stood alone several
years ago in defending my request for the discussion of iconography and
design evolution in Celtic coins. When I put me book on line he sent a note
of congratulation, and when the same book was requested for publication
(after the managing editor of Minerva spoke to his counterpart at
Archaeopress at Oxford), one of Vincent Megaw's students  contacted him
while the Megaws were touring Europe and he, in turn, contacted me wanting
to know all the details.


As to my overall study of Coriosolite coins, I have many letters of
encouragement and agreement in my general methodology from Colin
Haselgrove, Andrew Fitzpatrick and others. My distribution patterns that
were established as a mere by-product of my classification work have been
agreed upon by Haselgrove, FitzPatrick and de Jersey. Bob van Arsdell
called my study "important" and wrote to one publisher saying that is was
the most detailed and exhaustive typological analysis of a Celtic coinage
ever written. Chris Rudd called me "the next Derek Allen", and even Martyn
Jope congratulated my "deeply informed knowledge" of Celtic art.

As far as your denial of a broad iconographic language of Celtic coins with
local modifications. The evidence emphatically does not support your
position, and I am at a loss to understand how you came to such an opinion.
I can argue all of my claims very specifically, and my methodology is
exact, and the instances that I cite not only draws on many numbers of
coins that support these claims, but also takes into consideration all the
coins generally, and looks for exceptions. So far I have only found a
single exception to any point I have made, and that is in the early
scyphate coins of the Corieltauvi. These are enigmatic for a number of
reasons, such has been stated by Jeffrey May who is writing what will be
the standard text on Corieltauvian coins. For example, I gave an opinion
regarding the placement of an amphora on the coins and related coins of
Vercingetorix. I labelled this as a guess, and said that there are not
enough coins to be sure about this interpretation.


I am always the most severe critic of iconographic interpretation in myself
and with others. Most enquiries that I receive are based on merely looking
at a single example and then postulating a meaning. This is fairly typical.
I have to disappoint these people by saying that they need all sorts of
corroborating evidence. Not the least of which are many other examples that
show the same relationship with the icon in question, and the number of
exceptions is vital. If there are more than one or two, then I am
suspicious, and even one must have other anomalies such as being a
potential modern fantasy. In addition to this mythological interpretations
have to be bracketed, temporally.

So if we have a potential myth that seems reflected in a Celtic coin type,
and that myth exists in later Irish or Welsh stories, then we have to find
a pre -Celtic or Classical myth that can be seen and demonstrated to have
syncretized over time. Also any potential meanings will have to be
confirmable with a broader mythic theme from other cultures that are
connected (Campbell's mythogenic zones), and also (preferably) the theme,
if it based on a particular type of animal, for example, would fit with any
general, universal interpretation. The latter is not always possible, but
it adds extra weight when it does.

My interpretation of the boar as a symbol follows all of the above
criteria. The only exception is on the scyphate Corieltauvian gold coins.
This type emerged suddenly in 1981, and there are still unsettled questions
of its authenticity. Similar things have happened before in Celtic
numismatics: the haselmere forgeries, and the complete issue of British B2
gold staters are now believed to be a completely forged issue of many
linked dies. That the Corieltauvian coins are an exception to my
interpretation adds weight to them being fakes (as determined through other
factors) but at the very least we can say that they are highly anomalous
for many reasons, both circumstantial, metallurgically, and by their
production technique. The closest iconographic parallels found by May, in
an admittedly cursory examination are with coins of the Meldi, although
this is closely followed by the Ambiani, Veliocasses, and Senones. Jeffrey
May also points to potential traditions of these tribal areas based on a
similar iconography. I am not convinced one way or the other about the
authenticity of these coins as yet.

  
> Also, in general,
>most archaeologists and historians as well as most Celtic scholars would
>disagree with the interpretations of coinage as purely religiously motivated
>and as an outlet of a general "Celtic religious system". Not even Kenneth
>Jackson would have gone as far, not would Proinsias Mac Cana today.
 
Well, being a pioneer in this type of study, I would be amazed if anyone
else had even thought much about it. Anyway, the coinage was not
"religiously motivated" as you say, but comes from a long Greek tradition
that is mostly tied into military and political use, and eventually
filtered down to uses of commerce. It was usually only the very small coins
that had this later use, and in Greece, this is only fairly certain in
important areas like Athens. We know from Aristophanes that obols would be
likely found in the market place as one of his characters pops a fish scale
in his mouth at a market, believing it to be an obol. Earlier uses for
small coins in Athens are in payment for political/legal tasks like sitting
on a jury. The issue of Athenian tetradrachms about 80 years before
Aristophanes were exclusively for the Persian wars, just as the majority of
western Celtic coins were minted as a response to Caesar's invasion. All,
not some, of Armorican billon staters were wartime issues minted over very
few years. None of these were used in trade at any time, or in any place.
 
>> Examples of other types of artifact that mirror elements in coin
>> iconography are quite rare. The closest would be in the Armorican
>> style, but I only found three design elements in Coriosolite coins

>> that found any parallels in Jacobsthal's corpus. Three from
>> Weisskirchen, Saar, one each from Schwabsburg, Rhinehessen, Klein
>> Aspergle, Wurttemburg, and Eygenbilsen, Belgium. A few somewhat
>> related elements are found in other parts of Germany, but all of
>> these are merely design elements within the icon and not the icon
>> itself. There are two outlying elements whose objects, Jacobsthal
>> has reasons to believe originated elsewhere, for example, a Marnian
>> horse that seems to be derived from an Italian model. I know of no
>> complete iconographic theme that is mirrored at all, unless we
>> deal with just the subjects such as horses, heads etc. This is not
>> iconography.
>
>No, but all other art has an iconography of it`s own, with consitent
>patterning and partial cross-overs, which would have to be interpreted in
>exactly the same way as coin iconography.

There are very definite similarities, but some important differences too.
For example, almost all Greek coins have a religious motif, and this motif
was transferred to Celtic coins as part of its identity. Other forerunners
of Celtic art from Greece might also have a religious content, but it is
often the subsidiary decorative motifs that get transferred. A kantharos
might have the figure of Dionysos and some vine scroll work, but it would
be more likely that the scroll work would be copied by a Celtic artist who
came into possession of such an object. This is simply because the object
of the kantharos has a utilitarian and presumably non-religious function.
Greek coins have a religious motif because the issuing of coinage was very
much tied in to a function of the temple. Greek city states issued coins at
the temple, and the images were often of the same deity worshipped there.
Some coins even have an image of the temple itself, one early possibility
believed by many are that the tetradrachms of Delphi even depict the
ceiling of the temple of Apollo. When the emergency base issue tetradrachms
of 405 B.C. in Athens were being replaced by coins of fine silver, it was
at the temple where these coins were exchanged. So the joint
religious/military aspect of Greek issues transferred to the Celts and
shaped a trend that continued throughout Celtic coinage. This is probably,
in part, the reason for Miranda Green's statement, in addition to her just
looking at the coin types themselves. Jope (2000) is clear on the division
between coinage and other forms of Celtic art: "The design and cutting of
coin dies was a self-contained art;coin-designs were taken from other coins
and there was little direct relation with other arts, except perhaps that
of gems and seals". He is referring to British coins compared with British
art, and the reference to gems is specific to the later period of British
coinage. The situation on the continent is not as extreme because of the
greater numbers of both coins and other objects, but it is still
essentially true. 
 
> Apart from early and middle La

>Tène figurative art, the abstract designs on various late middle and late La
>Tène art are doubtless a development from earlier motives, which have to be
>expected to have at least as much religious significance as the coin
>iconography.

Not so, coins are part of a Greek tradition that, in the main, depicts
religious subjects. Other objects can be decorative, but with little
religious content, save for elements that might, in some cases, be also
used in religious art.

>In general, I see little reason to see coins as in any way
>significantly differing from other objects of art in their religious
>message: Neither do they show up in larger numbers in what has been
>identified as potential sanctuaries, in fact being mostly absent at such
>sites, even though one would expect them to show up in higher numbers there
>as on secular sites were they produced as or seen as of specific religious
>significance, nor is there any explanation what played the role of the
>coiage before the coiage came into use (unless, of course, you would want to
>assume that onlt with the appearance of coinage, religiious iconography
>became to be widely distributed, which would in turn require an explanation
>why the need for such a wider distribution should have arisen at that
>specific time). Also, while doubtless some coins carry motives that may have
>had motives taken from religious contexts on them, in some cases even are
>likely to have such motives on them, fast and unfounded expklanations of all
>coins being immensely siginificant in a religious context fails to explain

>their archaeological distribution pattern as it fails to be recorded in any
>sources, nor is there any obvious reason why they should have been
>especially religiously significant that can be deducted by mostly wild
>comparison with Irish or Welsh traditional tales.

There is little religious significance in the deposition of coins until
fairly late in the sequence. The largest British deposit was at Wanborough
temple.The religious significance in their designs is quite another matter.
Not everything that has religious significance is votive. I have already
discussed the matter of Irish and Welsh tales.
>
>> This is not clear at all, and the function of money to the Celts is
>> still widely debated.
>
>Agreed, but equally debated is their religious significance. It is no way
>clear that they were at all used as military salary, even less that they
>were used as a tranmitter for religious iconography, nor anything else in
>that like.

It is exceedingly clear that they were used as military currency.
Haselgrove (1992) allows for the possibility of other uses and encourages
continued research in this area given the scale of time and range of
distribution, but he does say "Nothing, of course, will necessarily emerge,
as the data are not large". By this he refers to those few issues that
might possibly have some other function. No one would deny that the immense
Gallo-Belgic E was an exclusively war-time issue, and there are many other
types that are generally agreed to be such as well. As I said, the entire
Armorican billon staters were issued as a response to Caesar.

>> Very late small coins such the "petit billons"
>> are believed by some to be the start of a small market economy in
>> Gaul, but these are post-conquest.
>
>Small silver coiage appears, at least in the east Celtic area, from the late
>La Tène period, a good 100 years pre-conquest and only little more than
>hundred years after the first coinage appears at all. This is definitly
>pre-Caesarian.

Yes, of course, but they are not indicative of a market economy. Each
issuer of coinage was bound by the circumstances of what metal they had at
their disposal: the Belgae issued gold staters, and the Armorican billon,
other tribes used silver of various sizes, all at the same time. Within
their own area, this was fairly standard. All were used for the hire of
troops. Unlike their Greek counterparts, the fineness of the metal varied
greatly, even within a single issue. It was not a specific intrinsic value
that was placed on these coins.

>Even more, small coinage is not a necessary requirement for use of coniage
>in a market economy, as the Irish translations of value clearly indicate.
>There, different kinds of "currency", ranging from slaves over cattle to
>sheep and chicken could very well be translated into a market economy value.
>The same might well apply for pre-monetary metal weight systems dating, as I
>said, as far back as the ronze Age (in fact, the early Bronze Age, to be
>precise). It might equally well be that coins were used as a reoplacement of
>one level in this multi-type currency system in the beginning, and only then
>began to filter down to other levels.

No this did not happen. The use of coins for market transactions occurred
after coins were first issued. The initial use of money was, essentially,
to purchase people, not goods. This was both military and political.

>> In Britain, some post-Caesar coins have a possibility of being
><snipped>
>> as late BA Armorican axes. Again, most of this material is hoarded.

>
>Hoards are not the same as hoards, and no way need to have religious
>signifiance. Nor does the fact that value deposits like horad show us items
>that are notdirectly comparable to modern money, tell us anything whether or
>not they were used as a sort of currency in a pre-monetary market economy.

The hoards are mostly considered to be hoards of "items of value and
status", but of course founders hoards also existed.

>> A couple of examples of the thinking  regarding the function of
><snipped>
>> suggest that there was an independent market economy"
>
>All this only shows that the problem is much more complex than to simply
>make it a "religious" item in a theocracy with an overarching religious
>belief system with minor local deviation, as your theory does. Read
>Fitzpatrick, if you quote him, in Graves-Brown, Jones and Gamble, The
>Archaeology of Identity. Routledge 1996.

Again, a religious iconography does not mean that the coins had a
subsequent religious function, just that they were in some ways "sacred". I
also never postulated any sort of theocracy, in fact I have barely touched
upon the religious aspects of the druids.

>I am absolutely willing to agree that it is not as simple that we can assume
>that coins fulfilled one function and just that. But your theory requires us
>not onlt that, but it requires us to assume pretty rigidly organised
>"druidic" training within a pretty well structured school system throughout
>most of temperate Europe, which there hardly is any evidence for.

It depends, as I have always said, on the status of the die engravers in
any region/time. The Armoricans were the most sophisticated, by reason of
their time and specific history. Armorica was conservative, as most fringe
areas were.

>Well, I`m not especially fond of Green`s theories either, as all of this is
>mostly based on what would be called a nativist assumption in EarlyIrish
>literature, which has been consistently shown to be a fallacy in regard to
>early Irish literature (and as the alleged religious meanings in such
>interpretations like yours are quite frequently directly importend from
>Early Irish and Welsh literature). Read James Carney`s Studies in Irish
>Literature and History, Dublin 1956, more importantly, read Mac Cone¬s Pagan
>Past and Christian Present in Early Irish Literature, and you will note that
>the stories taken as quickly and easily by Green and others who work in such

>an interpretative framework are not at all that easy to interpret as is
>assumed, and can not at all that easily be seens as a ancient Celtic
>tradition, based on an overarching religious system that covered Europe from
>Ireland to Turkey.

I have never said this was an easy task, just that it is possible. Of
course you cannot take the tales and then interpret earlier iconography
from them without bringing in a lot of other evidence as well, but this is
simply the way lore is studied, there is nothing impossible about it if you
go about it in the right way.

>Don`t see this as a personal attack, John, but I have serious problems with
>a methodology that assumes that everything which is round represents a sun
>godess, as for instance quite frequently happens in Green`s interpretations,
>that every wheel is a symbol for the Thunder god, and every boar a symbol
>for the boar appearing in Diarnmuit and Grainne.  Basically, modern
>semiotics tells us that signifier and the signified are not directly
>connceted, meaning that symbols are mostly arbitrary, and might have a
>different meaning in different places even if the symbols are absolutely
>identical in their outer appearance. Saussure is a good starting point for
>this. I see little reason to assume that we can simply  take a picture as
>the iconography and reconstruct a general meaning for it, that applied
>similarly throughout the Celtic world. This is why I think your
>interpretative methodology is seriously flawed.

LOL!!!! These are such elementary problems, and I have been aware of such
for many years. My method is far more advanced than just seeing a
resemblance between two symbols and then thinking that they must be the
same, as my brief description above must show. The proof of its workability
is already well established. For the last half century the Coriosolite
coinage was poorly classified; no distribution patterns were seen, and the
classification had a number of unanswered anomalies.

By being able to determine the differences between the varied religious
iconography and the stylistic evolution of other parts of the design, I was
able to take the chronology down from six classes to fifteen groups,
arrange the internal chronology to an accuracy of five dies at the maximum,
detect the locations of three issues, and establish blatantly obvious
distribution patterns where none existed before. If you read the catalogue
section of my book you will see that I have reconstructed the very thought
processes of the individuals that designed this coinage as they worked on
these designs. No one has done this for any group of Celtic coins, or any
other class of Celtic artifact. The catalogue consists of three chapters
and starts at:


http://www.writer2001.com/catintro.htm

It is important to read it in its entirety and to refer to each of the
illustrations as they are discussed.

The study of Celtic numismatics is an immensely difficult and complex
subject. When I was visiting Oxford a couple of years ago Philip de Jersey
(the keeper of the Celtic Coin Index and Barry Cunliffe's assistant)
lamented that Celtic coins could not be properly studied within the time
allowed for a university education. I know that Jeffrey May was already
working on his study of Corieltauvian coins when I started my research into
Coriosolite coins sixteen years ago, he is still not finished. My problem
is not with the methodology, but is always in ways to best describe this
methodology. The three main constituent parts are classification, stylistic
analysis, and iconography. Classification is the most basic, but it does
have to refer to the other two. I have written an introduction to the
proper classification of Celtic coins, with a few examples used by way of
illustrating some of the points. It runs to nearly ten thousand words. Too
large for a paper, and too small for a book. I have not decided on what to
do with it, I might expand it into a book about the complete methodology.

The other topics I will deal with in another email later, as the subject
has split into two.

Cheers,

John
http://www.writer2001.com/
Hooker & Perron, Total Project Coordination
Database-Web...Graphics...Custom Maps...Colour Suites...Expert Systems
Building the Celtic Coin Index on the Web:
http://www.writer2001.com/cciwriter2001/



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