Frame Saw (with bonus Adze)

Mosaic from a synagogue in Khirbet Wadi Hamam

Because I’m reading Ulrich’s book on Roman Woodworking I’m a little obsessed with representations these day.  Bear with me, it might wear off.  Or not.  I like tools.

Anyway other than general awesomeness this mosaic caught my eye because of the log splitting frame saw at the very bottom.  It reminded me of the log splitter in this relief.


Perhaps the bar on top is to allow a single worker to operate the saw or to act as a guide to keep it straight or both?

Nero’s Aegis

Sometimes I see things that aren’t there, but even that can be interesting.

So I spotted this face on Nero’s shoulder here:

Arachne Entry

And What I “saw”  was a face with an Pharonic style snake-y crown.  This sort of thing.


And I thought wow that’s interesting, so of course I went to see other specimens.  BUT first here’s the whole coin in trade:


These other dies make it really clear that an aegis not something Egyptianizing is intended but I still like that little face on the shoulder in profile, a very nice representation of the aegis.

Ostia coins on OCRE

Weiss, Naomi A. “THE VISUAL LANGUAGE OF NERO’S HARBOR SESTERTII.” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 58 (2013): 65-81.  OPEN ACCESS!




A group of colleagues read a piece of mine coming out in RBN 2020 and asked why I hadn’t given more data on Frequency.  A really fair criticism as the Esty model I use relies heavily on assumptions about the shape of coin data.  So I’m playing around with how to display that data this afternoon.  Here’s our old favorite Crepusius (n = 3366; d = 437):


Here’s how he looked back in 1997 and 2011 when used by Esty:


But wait what’s going on!? Clearly our data sets don’t match.  Esty is drawing on counts that I don’t (yet) have access to that were provided privately by Buttrey to Esty and never published!  So somewhere out there are unpublished notes of Buttrey on observed specimens that would need to be reconciled with RRDP to get more accurate counts… That’s a pain.

Okay moving on to other issues I”ll be back with more frequencies momentarily.

RRC 361





Drawing in Perspective and Representations of Roman Tools

Image links to Coin Archives Record

Shortly there will be better photos of this coin more widely available after the release of the Witschonke collection images for the ANS.  The obverse and the type of token is well summarized in a blog post by Clare Rowanwith references to further scholarship by Carbone, Stannard and others.

CNG listed the Reverse as a  “Harrow (or miner’s axe?)”;  The ANS presently has it as “Plow?” and another senior scholar assured me it was an axe.  I’m not convinced.

I’ve been reading Ulrich’s Roman Woodworking and I think this tool is a far better fit with representations of the adze.

The adze is a planing type tool. This is an amazing discussion and collection of images.  All the comparative images below are taken form this website.  The thing to notice about the adze is how the handle curves towards the blade.  Axe handles are typically straighter and longer.

Adze found on Abydos

The objection to it being an adze rather than an axe is that the blade on the coin is than angle of the cutting blade to the handle.  This is explained by Roman perspective and is seen in other representations of the adze.  On the below tomb the wide blade is represented with the two handled grip, the artist has chosen to emphasize width over true profile.  The photographer above has achieved the same effect by viewing angle.

Grave stele of P. Ferrarius Hermes from Pisa (Matthäus, 1984, Fig. 15)

The adze in operation is represented on the Telephos Frieze from the interior of the Great Altar of Zeus at Pergamon:

[Highlighting added to adze] Boatbuilders on the Telephos frieze from the Pergamon altar (Schwarzmaier, Scholl, and Maischberger, 2012, Fig. 180.24)
Updated later same day

Ulrich was kind enough to write back and confirm in his opinion that it is most certainly an adze.  He mentioned the representation under Icarus’ work bench on the Vettius fresco as another perspective drawing of a Roman adze.


Thinking more about the Telephos frieze … I got wondering if the Adze might be symbolic of boat builders generally.  Perhaps!


Egyptian boat building scene 7th century BCE (Brooklyn Museum)






Thinking about 363 control-marks

This morning I am desperate to read this article and have written to one of the authors hoping for a PDF.  (If you have one do send it along PLEEEEASSSSSEEEEE). I now have a copy and am reading!

Debernardi, Campana, Lippi, Passehl, I DENARI DI L.CENSOR CON SIMBOLI/LETTERE (RRC 363/1a-c), Monete Antiche Nov.Dic. 2018, pp. 25-47.

While trying to see if I could find a PDF on-line, I did find this very interesting blog post.  Because things sometimes disappear online and I really don’t want to lose this information, I’m going to fully quote it on this blog to create my own permanent archive.

Update. The final published table is a little different than that from the blog:



An Unprecedented Important Collection of Cr. 363/1a-b

Artemide Aste @ 08 ott 2018
It is fortunate that the specialized collection of denarii of L.CENSOR with symbols, presented here, can be accompanied by a study never undertaken so far. The paper I denari di L.CENSOR con simboli/lettere (RRC 363/1a-c) will appear in Monete Antiche Nov-Dec 2018 and its authors have kindly agreed to provide us a preprint, from which this summary is drawn. They were welcome to profit from an in person examination of this collection at our place. Additional data and information are presented and discussed in the paper.
L. MARCIVS CENSORINVS was in the IIIvir monetales college with P. CREPVSIVS and M. LIMETANVS. This triumvirate is the most investigated in the whole RR period thanks to the coinage of Crepusius, whose corpus of 3000+ specimens was gathered by Ted Buttrey over the course of his whole lifetime. The authors of the new paper have greatly benefited from his results and have put the whole IIIvirate production of this college under a new light and interpretation.
In fact, it features very peculiar characteristics; it is the only one where all the moneyers produced an issue under their single names and also, in parallel, a joint issue (RRC 360/1). Under their new framework, the authors are able to address all of these features and, of special interest here, the reason for L.CENSOR having this signed, very tiny section, in addition to his bulk of un-marked coins (20 dies against about an estimate of 900).
These coinages were produced in Rome under the Marian faction, during the First Civil War between the Marians and Sulla. At the end of 84 BC, the Marians were preparing, with a levy of 100.000 men, for the fight against Sulla, who landed at Brundisium from the East in the Spring of 83. For this large army one can estimate a requirement of 15 million of denarii, which matches very well with the production of the IIIvirate under discussion.

The most important results of the paper are therefore:

      1. a one-year pre-dating of this triumvirate (83 BC instead of 82 BC), which fits very well with the need of cash for the big army
      2.  the big Capitol fire of 6 July 83 BC strongly influenced the coinage of that year, because the Mint was completely destroyed. The arson started at the Temple of Juppiter, destroying also the Tabularium, to which the mint was in close connection (Coarelli). The Mint and Tabularium were rebuilt by Q .Lutatius Catulus and re-opened in 78 BC.
      3. The IIIvirate leader was L.Censorinus, because of his name appearing alone at the obverse of the series RRC 360/1, which is the first produced just after the fire in an emergency mint. The veiled Moneta (cf. lot 235 and lot 236, the latter produced at the very beginning of the series, with numeral VI) on the obverse is kind of proof; Moneta is depicted exactly the same on RRC 396/1,and the veil is a sign of mourning for the destroyed temple and mint.
      4. An updated catalog, based on a Corpus of 176 specimens, augments the known symbols (obv) and letters/numerals by five, and the known pairs from 24 to 37, as depicted in the table above. The new pairs are highlighted bold, provided by a progressive number (PN) and by the known specimens (SN). In the right column, the RRC Table XXIX is reported for comparison.

In this way, the few dies of L.CENSOR with symbols finds a reasonable framework for the first time: they were the first dies produced after the fire, to test a new system of control-marks, thereafter immediately applied to RRC 360/1 and, exactly in the same way, in the Crepusius coinage. In fact, Crepusius re-uses most of the symbols of Censor, and combine them with letters and numerals, all ingredient present in “Censor’s experiment”. This is the most reasonable way to understand the otherwise inexplicable mixture of combinations that RRC tries to describe with its 1a/1b/1c. In fact, this is a single production, and to split it into free parts is rather a stretch, inasmuch as all of the dies are linked together. The four unsigned dies (Nil) of Censor that survived the fire were mixed with twenty or so dies with symbols/letters. The aim was to mark the dies so that to have a better control on them, now placed in a less secure temporary mint. That experiment ended RRC 363/1 and precisely date “our coins” to the first half of July 83 BC. Then RRC 360/1 followed, expressing the mourning for the big Capitol fire and also the need of giving a collegial certification of the restarted mint production by all the three moneyers. After a month or so, it was stopped and Crepusius started to mint his coinage, exploiting in full the experience acquired by Censor’s experiment.

Among the coins presented here, many are not listed in RRC’s Table XXIX (Pair Number 5, 13, 15, 17, 23, 35 offered for the first time in a public sale) and some are not in any public collections: PN 23 is only in Paris and in such poor condition that it led Crawford astray.