Odd countermark?

What’s been stamped on the face of this specimen of RRC 378/1a?  We saw a weird S very recently on this blog and in the land of twitter, but I don’t think this is the same…


Ideas welcome. Doesn’t look much like a test punch to me….

This is not an ‘S’ but it also doesn’t look like a test mark.  The specimen is in Paris.  Red is clearly a test punch.  Blue might be a test gouge.




ALL of Schaefer’s Analyses NOW ONLINE

Capture.JPGThe first release of Schaefer’s die study (RRDP) was just the binders.  NOW you can see all the analyzed specimens!  All digitized clippings have been uploaded to Archer, the ANS archival portal, in batches of 100 Crawford numbers.  Again, using CRRO is the best way to find the images of a type.  Just like you’d do to find a specimen in the Binder (direction here), you just go to the bottom of the CRRO page and click the link to Archer.

[Using RRC 300/1 as an example.]


Processed clippings means that they represent photographs of die-analysed specimens that for MOST issues represent dies are already illustrated in the binders.  Typically Schaefer left the two specimens that best represented a die in the binder and then placed the rest in his drawers (output).

To scan the drawers Dr. Richardson dealt out the images with the first image in the drawer at the top left corner of the scan and then down in a column before then starting an new column.  This allows you to reconstruct a drawer.  Some types took more than one scanner page.  You will need to consult the binders for the die study, in particular to match die names in the processed clippings to the die names on specimens in the binders.Capture.JPG

The exception to all this is ODEC (One Die for Each Control Mark).  These types are only processed clippings and do not have corresponding pages in the binders.  For example, you might check out my favorite, Papius (RRC 384/1).

For ODEC the order that the images are laid out in the scans are the die study.  The die names are also labelled and should always be double checked against layout.  (Human error is real, esp. in a project of this scale)

2019-03-15 13.05.58

Is that it?  Has Schaefer’s archive given up all its treasure?  Sadly no.

Schaefer has thousands and thousands of un-analysed (prepossessed) clippings only a very small fraction of these could be scanned because of time constraints.   Dr. Richardson did put together a spreadsheet documenting the extent of this collection.  The clipping are organized by type, just not die organized.

Things to expect in the future.

A full finding aid to the collection incorporating and refining much of the preliminary information archived here on my personal blog in draft form.

Disambiguation to improve links on CRRO.  Schaefer did not always use Crawford’s subtypes (a, b, c…) and this means that it is more difficult to create links from CRRO pages that follow Crawford to the right Schaefer pages.  HOWEVER, just because you don’t see a link in CRRO doesn’t mean there aren’t pages in Schaefer’s Archive.  It more likely means we’ve not yet manage to create the links.  I welcome emails to help identify these types.  For clippings you can easily find these yourself, but if you cannot locate the right binder, I’m happy to provide this service.

Have a question?  Check here first.  If that doesn’t answer it just email me!

With deep gratitude to Ethan Gruber for making this release possible!

Also because in the digital age utility is measured by clicks, if you found this interesting please open at least one page of Schaefer’s work in Archer.  This helps us demonstrate public engagement with the project.



Goddess of What?! Fun Vocab

Venus Cloacina or Venus of the Sewer, has appeared on this blog before.

CRRO refs to different types with relevant reverse.




This specimen got me thinking in a prurient way about what fun it might be to explore ancient uses of cloaca and its modern usages.


I’ve an immoderate interest in chicken sex which is called the cloacal kiss.


I blame my interest on the bad influence of Roman intaglios which regularly show this act (which the intertubes tell me are pretty realistic representations):


In anatomy cloaca means one hole out of which everything comes, both digestive waste and reproductive products….


Which leads to this relatively common non-normative anatomical development that is usually corrected by surgery in humans:


What Greek and Latin Roots student wouldn’t want this lesson?!

I thank a colleague on twitter for adding this comicto my list of modern uses of the term.

Nothing to do with coin striking

I’m very grateful to Prof. Sinclair W. Bell for reading the below post and sending me the following article which I had not read when I wrote the original post!  I’ve annotated my original post to highlight our agreements and disagreements.


—Original post with annotations based on Daoust–

I am very grateful to Dr. Jeremy Haag for sending me an email asking my thoughts on this relief.  I found I had quite a few… As often happens.


BM 1954,1214.1has since Vermuele been taken as a possible illustration of some mint workers.  This interpretation cannot stand.

Two men are pictured, both formerly enslaved. The man on the left, Philonicus was a lictor.  Lictors not only carried fasces but also carried another thinner rod perhaps what is called by Festus a commetaculum, or maybe it would be called a bacillum (staff) as in  Cic. Agr. 2.93.  Regardless of what the right Latin word is for this little rod, never the less we see it in the hands of lictors all the time!  There is a good case to be made that it’s “the get out of my way” stick–the stick that actually got used as opposed to the ceremonial bundle.

Details of above monument:

Museo Gregoriano Profano, Vatikanische Museen, Italien, Inv.-Nr. 9534
Museo Maffeiano, Verona, Italien, Pronao. Inv.-Nr. 28164
Villa Pelicano, Castellammare di Stabia, Italien, Inv.-Nr. 140/1012
Museo Maffeiano, Verona, Italien, Pronao. Inv.-Nr. 28165

Why did anyone ever think Philonicus might have not been a lictor?  Because they were misled by the idea that the Mariemont Relief represented a scene of emancipation rather than a scene from the circus with a presiding official and three desultores.

[Update: Daoust p. 239ff. is concerned, as Ashmole and Manning before him, that the axe shape is strange and describes it as archaic following Schäfer’s chronology (dang, I want that book on my shelves forever–pandemic book access is such a pain…).  Not having Schäfer to hand I can’t decide how convinced I am but I’m generally skeptical.  Some times representations of fasces are consistent (e.g. on Norbanus coinage), but often the die engravers are very casual about variations in style and not all iconography ‘evolves’ in the chronologically meaningful way–look at the mess Fittschen hair styles got us into for the Antonine dating.  I agree that the fasces are occupational; I do not believe the men worked for the Roman state as blacksmiths or reported to lictors, I believe Philonicus may have started life as a blacksmith and then became a lictor.]

The man on the right is Demetrius and he was owned by the late Philonicus and made the monument for both himself and his patronus [Update: Daoust concurs, p. 232-3]. I concur strongly with Manning that the tools are the right represent are to be associated with carpentry, a view endorsed by Roger Ulrich (p. 31 of his book Roman Woodworking).  The only thing I have to add is the observation that some of the tools are also depicted in the fresco of Icarus from the House of Vettius, namely bow-drill, adze.


[Update: Daoust p. 237 also mentions this fresco and sees in it Icarus using a tool like the ‘knife’ in the relief–what he identifies as a mortise chisel.  This was my very first thought as well for the identity of the tool on the relief, so I am tempted.  I shied away from this interpretation as I couldn’t find a good parallel image in Ulrich but this may be about which profile of the chisel is shown.  I was inclined to emphasize its knife-like qualities  because of the similarity in profile to knives in cutler iconography.  I grant these are not exact parallels, but neither is the chisel (yet…)]

[Is it a knife?!]
One of the mysteries is why the adze and tanged paring chisel, the lowest two tools on the right hand side are shown without handles, whereas the drill is shown with its finely turned spoke and the knife is also shown with a handle (Daoust, p. 238 also emphasizes this point).  I have a speculation, but I’m going to wait to share until we’ve dealt with the pediment.


Manning has already observed that the tongs do not hold a flan but instead had a flange to ensure closure and improve grasp [Update: on this feature of tongs and relationship to the production of small tools, Daoust p. 236].  The really kicker though is the two part anvil. One part anvils are known in Roman art, but two part anvils  like the one seen here are very common.  The top portion of the anvil is NOT a die.

Museo della Civilta Romana (1964) 617 Nr. 50
Türkische Schule, Izmir, Republik Türkei, Inv.-Nr. 80
Aquileia, (Aquileia), Udine (Provinz), Italien; Filmnummer: 0783_B03; Negativnummer: Alinari 46962

[Daoust p. 236 refers to this type of relief of a blacksmith expert in lock making for comparative evidence of tools and product both appearing on such occupationally themed memorials.]

Archäologische Staatssammlung, München, Deutschland, Inv.-Nr. 1981,4404
Museo Nazionale Romano – Museo delle Terme
CIL 13, 02965 = SIRIS 00747 = RICIS-02, 00607/0202 = CAG-89-02, p 666; EDCS-10501963


Grabstele des Schmieds Kleobios, Staatliche Museen, Antikensammlung Berlin Sk 790

So do we have three professions held by two men here? Maybe.  Maybe Philonicus started off as a blacksmith became a lictor upon being freed and then set up Demetrius in business as a carpenter.  Lictors are essentially bully-boys or body guards and Philonicus does have a meathead look to him and who better than a blacksmith to make a lictor?

But I also think it just possible that Demetrius was a blacksmith specializing in the creation of carpentry tools especially hard to make stuff like drill bits and precise knives.  It’s a simpler explanation, two professions instead of three AND it fits with the last two tools being shown with out handles.

[Update: Daoust believes the tympanum must refer to both men and a share profession.  This is logical.  p. 234 following. He emphasizes on p. 235 that the hammer is a a cross-pene type and thus for finer work.  I’d put less emphasis on on this as identifying the type of blacksmith or try to marshal more comparative evidence to support it.  That said I don’t have Zimmer, G. 1982. Römische Berufsdarstellungen, AF 12. Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag to hand and if I did I might be more convinced.]

Smiths with specializations are known:

Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

As are those that specialize in blades.  Tomb 29 from Ostia might be a good comparison point.

Further images

Tomb relief showing a smith in the act of working with his helper. Imperial times. Roma, Museo della Civilta Romana; Roma, Museo della Civilta Romana. Di Tanna, A., “I Collegi degli artigiani”, Archeo: Attualita del Passato, 140 (1996)






tresviri auro argento aere flando feriundo (“the three men for casting and striking of gold, silver and bronze” )

An inscription from Ephesus recording (the first part) of the title from the 120s CE.


The title has been long known from coins.

RRC 480/19

Very nice illustrated specimens can be found in the Berlin collection.

A nice intro summary of the office of moneyer.

Another nicer epigraphic example from Ephesus!


What types are not (yet) online for RRDP?!

This is another working post attempting to respond to user queries and keep a record for myself that can eventually be integrated into an official finding aid on the ANS RRDP website.  Want to know more about RRDP?  Go to our most recent blog post!

(I thank Donna Levinsohn for first raising these questions. PLEASE email me at yarrow [at] brooklyn [dot] cuny [dot] edu if you cannot find an issue in Schaefer’s binders or the index and I will updated this post.)

ODEC = One Die for Each Control-Mark

Status of  release for issues not (yet) linked to CRRO

316– not indexing correctly, must troubleshoot and update data; for now this this issue can be found in Binder 2, on pages 50, 51, 54, 55, 58, 59, 64, 65, 68, 70, 71, 74, 76, 77, 80, 81, 84, 85, 88, 89, 92, 93, 96, 97 100, 101, 104, 105, 112, 113, 115; there are also seventeen (!) clippings images that have not yet been released, but those will contain no new dies.

378 –  part of ODEC, likely to be released by September 2020

394 – disambiguation of sub-types in underlying data is required before the online indexing will reflect location, for now this this issue can be found in Binder 6, on pages 104, 106, 107, 112, 113; there is also one clippings image that has not yet been released, but that will contain no new dies.

442– disambiguation of sub-types in underlying data is required before the online indexing will reflect location, for now this this issue can be found in Binder 9, on pages 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 14, 15, 20; there are also four clippings images that have not yet been released, but those will contain no new dies.

453 – disambiguation of sub-types in underlying data is required before the online indexing will reflect location, for now this this issue can be found in Binder 9, on pages 178, 179, 182, 184, 185, 190, 191; there are also three clippings images that have not yet been released, but those will contain no new dies.

Two venerable coins that are just too similar

The poor coin copiers of yesteryear how could they ever imagine  we would now be able to share information so well!  I really never suspected a thing either until I asked what I thought was just an ignorant question to some lovely twitter friends.

This RRC 513/2 specimen in the Ashmolean has an odd punch mark.  I’d not seen anything like it exactly on a Roman Republican specimen so I wanted to know more about the phenomenon.  An ancient counter-mark of some type seems to be consensus. (Do you know of similar counter-marks on RR coins?  Please do let me know!)


But in the course of conversation the eagle-eyed anonymous (on twitter) numismatist known as “Nero Claudius Drusus” observed  that a similar mark was on a Paris specimen.  Even before this Andrew McCabe had observed that the Oxford specimen “has funny surfaces, wavy, thick devices e.g. lettering, odd patina that looks artificial”.

So now we do some side by sides with the aid of Michael Davis:


And for me it is even clearer on the obverse because I can stop staring at that weird S and actually think about the comparison (Paris left, Oxford Right).


The reverse die is “Die A” in Schaefer’s archive (RRDP).  He records 4 specimens.  Other examples of this reverse die are known in Berlin and the BM:


The beaded border on the Oxford specimen is clearly too large for the impress made by the die and must be the result of tooling.

So someone in the 18th century sold the Reverend Charles Godwyn a cast of the Paris specimen (when did that specimen arrive in Paris? That is one piece of the puzzle not yet answered).  He then bequested to the Ashmolean and now as the collection is being digitized and references attached to each digital record we now see the fraud.  Or perhaps Godwyn knew and just wanted a copy for his collection of a rare type and then in the bequest the knowledge of its status as a copy was lost.