Friday, April 28, 2017

News: OCRE launches new interface to aid in identification of Roman coins

OCRE launches new interface to aid in identification of Roman coins

After years of discussion and labor by several people, we are pleased to announce a new interface for Online Coins of the Roman Empire that will aid in the identification of Roman imperial coins by non-specialists (archaeologists and collectors alike). We hope that this will be especially useful for badly worn coins discovered in archaeological excavation. Like the rest of OCRE and other ANS web projects, this interface is responsive to devices of various sizes, making it ideal for use on mobile phones and tablets in the field.

The interface, called "Identify a Coin", is a simplification of  OCRE's browse interface into the basic components that can help to narrow down a coin's visibly identifiable attributes. Selection to specific criteria leads the user into a restricted subset of matches for further comparison (aided by the great number of images associated with coin types provided by partner institutions). For example, a user of this interface can select the type of metal and insert any recognizable characters on either the obverse or reverse legend, with wildcards ('*' characters) designating gaps in legibility. Importantly, the user can select from a nearly complete list of imperial portraits as potential matches. The portraits are listed chronologically, first by dynasty, and then by personage within the dynasty (including empresses and children). In many cases, portrait images are available in gold, silver, and bronze, as well as worn examples that one may encounter with stray finds or excavation. The selection of a material will automatically change the metal of the portraits, when a relevant image is available. More than one material may be chosen, which is useful for later Roman coinage, when severe wear makes it difficult to distinguish between what RIC has designated as "silver," "bronze," or "billon." By clicking the left and right arrows below the image, it is possible to scroll through available portraits, which may show several phases of portraiture, such as Nero, who grew from a teenager into adulthood over the course of his reign.

This interface is one of the most complete depictions of numismatic imperial portraiture, and we hope that it will also prove itself a useful art historical tool to trace the development of Roman portraiture from the Augustan period through the Soldier Emperors to the Tetrarchy until the end of the Roman Empire.

Many thanks to ANS curatorial assistant Disnarda Pinilla for identifying all of the portraits used in this interface. Although primarily drawn from the ANS collection, others are from Berlin, Vienna, or the Fralin Museum at the University of Virginia.

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