That ‘bingo machine’ again

Schaefer pointed out the trouble with the bingo machine id for the obverse symbol 103 on the Fabatus series is the little symbol that (seems?) to connect the ball to the top bar.

See previous post to catch up on convo and also read comments.

I went looking for models of bingo balls that had a square frame around them (not a typical modern feature of mechanical bingo balls).

Here’s one I found being offered for sale with great pics but little historical detail/context.

If the little sticky out thing at the top is part of the ball not part of the frame and not connecting the two, then it might be the box that catches and releases the random ball. That’s a lot of ifs and by no means certain, but until we find an actual archaeological match for the symbol this is the best I’ve got so far.

Clare Rowan drew my attention to this depiction on a ball game machine in the Bode Museum Berlin:

The rest of the reliefs on this machine are as she points out are all chariot related. See tweet thread for more images.

Mars, not Roma

Detail of statuette found in Lombardy, now in Louvre

This statuette got me thinking that we probably have the obverse of RRC 388/1 (and perhaps other types with similar iconography) wrongly listed as Roma when they would more naturally be read as Mars by an ancient viewer:

front view of same statuette

This re identification would make sense with Mars’ totem animal the wolf on the reverse of 388.

Specimen in trade

Philopator and Laodice

This is a cast of an unknown original specimen in the Louvre.

The type assimilates the identities of Queen (Basilisse) Laodice and King Mithridates (Philopator) with Zeus and Hera and identifies them as Philadephon. Sibling Lovers. Emulating the Ptolemies and with a heavy nod to the same logics as Theocritus Idylls 17 justifying the sibling marriage among Hellenistic royalty based on the Olympic precedent.

The obverse.

NAC 106, 247

Coin design Longue Durée article

Barbara Pavlek, James Winters, Olivier Morin, “Ancient coin designs encoded increasing amounts of economic information over centuries.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 56 (2019).


Coinage, the practice of minting small bits of metal with distinctive marks, appearing in the second half of the 7th century BCE, had a transformative impact upon ancient economies and societies. Controversies endure concerning the original function of ancient coinage, in particular the respective role of states and markets in its emergence. Applying information-theoretic measures to a corpus of 6859 distinct coin types from the Ancient Mediterranean world, dated between c. 625 and c. 31 BCE, we show that the symbols minted on coins (designs combining images of plants, deities, animals, etc.) became increasingly informative about a coin’s value. This trend was specific to value-relevant information, as distinct from information concerning issuing states. Coin designs also carried more information about higher denominations than about lower ones. Before numerical or written marks of value became widely used on coinage, these iconic symbols were carrying economic information.

More Roman Technology via Fabatus

RRC 412 : L. Roscius Fabatus’ issue like Papius’ uses paired control marks (and also celebrates Juno Sopita). Some pairs repeat but some see unique to Fabatus. We saw the groma in my last post, but there are other fun examples of Roman technology on this series.

Lotto machine for randomizing ball draws!

CNG 64, 805: “L. Roscius Fabatus. 59 BC. AR Serrate Denarius (3.92 gm). Head of Juno Sospita right, wearing goat’s skin; lottery machine behind / Female standing right feeding serpent; lottery ball behind. Crawford 412/1 (symbols 103); Sydenham 915; Roscia 3. … The symbols on this particular issue of L. Roscius Fabatus depict components of an ancient lottery system. While Crawford misdescribed these symbols as a well and an unknown symbol, their actual identification is possible by comparison with contorniates made hundreds of years later which depict the identical equipment (see, e.g., Alföldi 203). Furthermore, it may be deduced through the comparisons with the contorniates that the lottery system they were parts of related to the determination of the starting positions in a chariot race.”

This is also a great example about why one must read auction catalogues: they contain key information not just on specimens but also on types and also often finds and relevant scholarship. I just wish the individual entries were authored.

It took me the better half of forever to find the right comparative image but I did it and I regret not a moment spent trolling contorniates. (a good blog post about them in French)

Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Monnaies, médailles et antiques, AF.17308 (IMP-11938) Gallica link
Just a few of the Schaefer archive photos

Unindentified Machine(?)

Schaefer images same link as that above

Schematic rendering

Do you know of a better specimen of with this control mark?! I’d love to see it.

It does not look like any water pump I can find from the ancient world and yet I wonder if it is not a hydraulic tool of some sort. Must get:

Ortloff, Charles R. The Hydraulic State: Science and Society in the Ancient World. Milton: Taylor and Francis, 2020.

Earliest representation of a Groma?!

Listed as unknown symbols by Crawford and others, but correctly identified by Fava.

RRC 412: 59 BCE (so Hersh and Walker and Hollstein)

Notice this depiction uses show two plumbs being used the not four typically used for reconstructions.

Yale specimen
Groma as obverse control mark on BM specimen
Ferramentum as reverse control mark on same BM specimen
The Schaefer Archive documents five specimens of this die pair / control mark pair.
Pin by Kevin Eoghan on Romans | Roman empire map, Ancient rome, Ancient  technology
Uncertain whom to credit for this useful diagram

Below later images from funerary contexts.

Corinth Computer Project: Roman Surveying
Gromatic Images from New Discoveries in Pompeii | SpringerLink
Arachne link