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Line Maj-Britt Højberg Bjerg

E-mail: klalb@hum.au.dk
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Research profile

My main interests are the coin circulation in the Bosporan Kingdom in the Roman period and the interaction with the Roman Black sea provinces and Empire, and the economic development in the Bosporan Kingdom in the Roman period and the cultural interaction between the Bosporan Kingdom and the Roman culture and how the coins were perceived by the local population.

I am a Classical archaeologist (MA in May 2005) with the thesis “Romersk denarfund fra bopladser i Jylland”. ”Roman Denarii found on settlements in Jutland”. This study focused on context dating of the coin finds. Prior to my employment as ph.d. student with the Danish Research Foundation’s Centre for Black Sea Studies I was engaged as academic secretary at the centre. I have participated in excavations at Xantern in Germany and Skjern Voldsted in Denmark. Since 2004 I have been a research assistant on the Olbia publication project, where I am responsible for the Hellenistic West Slope pottery and have been on material campaign in Olbia for the past three summers, since 2004.

My research is mainly concerned with research activity: RA 7A The Bosporan Kingdom and Rome
The main aim of the project is to shed light on the coin circulation of the Bosporan Kingdom and on the cultural interaction between the elite in the Bosporan society, the Roman and the surrounding Barbarians. For this purpose, archeologically context dated coin finds are used as primary sources. 

The Bosporan Kingdom grew out of the Greek city-states and small kingdoms on the eastern Crimea and the Taman peninsula of the Hellenistic period. The small entities became a single kingdom under the rule of Mithridates VI (132-63 BC) who created an empire based on Pontos and Bosporos. The end of the Bosporan Kingdom is traditionally given as around 341-342 AD, because the Kingdom does not strike coins after this time (Gajdukevič 1971). 

I will aim to answer questions regarding the coin circulation within the Bosporan Kingdom as part of local and regional exchange networks through a context dating of the known hoards of Bosporan coins and their distribution. The Bosporan Kingdom was situated just outside the Roman Empire in an area with strong Barbarian influence. This affected the culture of the Bosporan Kingdom. It was highly influenced by the surrounding Barbarian culture in the Roman period, especially in the 2nd – 3rd centuries AD, just as it had been influenced by the Greek culture of the city-states in the pre-Roman period. In what way did this cultural orientation influence the coinage?

Many questions arise from these reflections: Did the Bosporans let themselves be influenced by impulses from outside their own cultural circle? By whom were they then influenced and why? How did the cultural identities of the Bosporan kings manifest themselves in the coin evidence? What was the relation to Rome? Questions of the extent of the influence of the Roman economy on the coin circulation in the Bosporan kingdom and the Bosporan coinage will also be analysed, just as the question of how independent the Bosporan Kingdom was of Rome seen from the coin evidence.

The Greek cities within the area of the later Bosporan Kingdom had their own coinages and through the Mithradatic Empire the citizens must have been accustomed to the thought of a common currency in opposition to the Barbaric/Barbarian areas beyond the Bosporan Kingdom. Still the Bosporan kings kept the Bosporan coinage after it became a frontier zone of Roman presence in the area. Was this a necessary economic decision based on Bosporan policy in order to keep some political control over the Kingdom’s economy after it came under Roman domination, perhaps to avoid a drain of its finances in favour of Rome? Or was it as much a question of the king´s prestige and simply a necessary means to legitimize the Bosporan kings in the eye of the population?

The coinage and coin circulation in the Bosporan Kingdom shows a number of unique traits compared with other regions both within the Roman Empire and beyond. Most importantly the coin system was based on gold coins, whereas the Roman coin system was based on silver.
The chronology of the coinage and coin circulation in the Bosporan Kingdom has been the object of attention of Russian scientists and is currently a topic of controversy. Until now the chronology has primarily been based on the minting date of particular coin types. However this starting point can be misleading, since it does not take into account that coins minted in different periods can circulate contemporaneously (e.g. in Pompeii at the time of the destruction in 79 AD, up to between 75 and 80% of the denarii circulating were Republican, while the gold coins (aurei) mainly were more contemporary, Neronic and Flavian, coins). A Bosporan example is the 1975 Ilyichevka hoard with Bosporan coins (Rhescuporis V to Rhescuporis VI) from the 3rd century AD and Late-Roman solidii struck by Justinian I in the 6th century AD.

The Bosporan Kingdom probably exported agricultural and fish products as well as other goods to the Roman Empire. The payment was likely to have been in Roman coins, the main international currency of the period. But surprisingly few Roman denarii have been noted from archaeological finds within the Bosporan Kingdom. They seemingly did not supplement the monetary system to any degree. This curious lack might suggest that the use of Roman coins have been limited for foreign trade only. It might, however, rather be due to the fact that the Roman coins have been neglected in previous studies of the coin circulation of the area.

Studies on Bosporan coinage and coin circulation have tended to focus singularly on locally issued coins and neglected the evidence from within the Roman Empire as well as Barbaricum, which offers valuable material for the understanding of the Bosporan coinage. Therefore the foreign coins (mainly Roman, Bithynian and minor mints) found within the kingdom should be examined in relation to foreign trade.

This study will attempt to catalogue and context date the known hoards of Bosporan coins.
At present a little over 60 hoards are published, and more have undoubtedly been found in excavations, but remain unpublished. A distribution map of the coin finds has never been published.  In order to get an idea about the circulation area, both the coin hoards and the stray finds will be mapped. This is important as it is unknown, how goods where exchanged in the periphery and the countryside of the kingdom, whether it was based on coins or payment in kind.

   


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