Thursday, June 18, 2020

Numismatics News: About 1,300 Seleucid Monograms published to SCO

About 1,300 Seleucid Monograms published to SCO
About 1,300 monograms appearing on the coinage of Seleucus I through Antiochus III (Houghton, Lorber, and Hoover's Seleucid Coins, Part 1) have been published to Seleucid Coins Online (SCO) and linked to thousands of types and subtypes. Much like previous work with PELLA and PCO, the constituent letters have been annotated by Peter van Alfen, although I am sure we will spot some errors or oversights in the process.

Where the SCO monograms differ from the previous projects is that monograms have been organized hierarchically by Oliver Hoover. Unlike in PELLA and PCO, where a monogram usually has one SVG file (but may have more than one to illustrate slight variations in style), the Seleucid monograms have been grouped thematically by letters and general design motif.

SCO monogram 299

For example Monogram 299 generally consists of Μ, Ε, and Υ, and has four sub-monograms linked to the parent through skos:broader in the RDF. These sub-monograms URIs (e.g,, are encoded within the coin type data, which makes it possible to visualize the mints, hoards, and coin types connected at the sub-monogram level as well as the parent level, by extending the underlying SPARQL query all types associated with the parent monogram through each of the children:

  BIND (<> as ?symbol)
    SELECT ?symbol ?side WHERE {
     {?side nmo:hasControlmark ?symbol}
     UNION {?children skos:broader+ ?symbol .
              ?side nmo:hasControlmark ?children}

Similarly, Seleucid Coins is an extensively hierarchical type corpus. Many symbols and monograms are annotated at the subtype level. While individual subtypes are indexed into Solr in Numishare for OpenRefine reconciliation and the Atom feed (which powers lookups in KENOM), the browse page itself shows only parent types. The underlying code in Numishare was updated so that symbols and monograms annotated within subtypes are indexed into Solr, making it possible to access them from the symbol facets, regardless of whether that particular monogram appears explicitly within the data for the parent type. For example, Monogram 426 appears in SC 42.2, but has been indexed into the data for SC 42 so that it still appears on the browse page for the query, with two other non-hierarchical types in which the monogram appears directly. Coincidentally, Monogram 426 only appears on posthumous Alexanders minted in Carrhae from 310-290 B.C.

Query results for Monogram 426

Some technical advances I would like to implement in these user interfaces in the near future:

  • A histogram showing the dates of production for monograms
  • Plugging the monograms into the existing distribution analyses functions in Numishare and Nomisma (to generate charts showing authorities, mints, etc. that produced monograms)
  • Vary the radius of the mint points on the map by density of production
  • Introduce a draggable timeline into the map so that the geographic distribution can be visualized over time

The links between letters, monograms, types, mints (and other typological attributes), and hoards will open the door to completely new types of query that were not possible before the application of Linked Open Data to numismatics. We are barely scratching the surface of what's possible. I have recently queried a list of concordances between Ptolemaic monograms and mints from the SPARQL endpoint that I plan to import into a network visualization tool, like Gephi, for experimentation.

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