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February 23, 2006



Coin featuring Greek God
Reverse of a tetradrachm of Demetrius Poliorcetes of Macedonia, minted in Salamis, Cyprus, c. 294-288 B.C.E. from the Elizabeth Washburn King Collection of Ancient Greek Coins, Bryn Mawr College Art and Archaeology Collection

A permanent exhibition of ancient coins will open on Tuesday, Feb. 28, in the Ella Riegel Memorial Museum on the third floor of Thomas Hall at Bryn Mawr. Titled "A Treasury of Knowledge: An Exhibition of the Bryn Mawr College Collection of Ancient Coins," the display is curated by Sarah Hafner, a graduate student in Greek, Latin and Classical Studies and a National Endowment for the Humanities Curatorial and Exhibitions Fellow.

"Coins are more than just an esoteric interest for collectors," Hafner says. "They can give us insight into a whole range of subjects — architecture, religion, politics, society, art and history, to name a few. Bryn Mawr has a wonderful collection, and I'm hoping the exhibition will make it more accessible and arouse interest in its use."

Hafner began her work with the coins as a summer project, but it became a longer-term effort. "Nobody had done intensive work on this collection for years," she says, "so there was a lot to do. I've now looked at every coin in the collection. My goal was to organize them so that they could be a useful resource."

About 75 coins will be included in the display. "The collection contains examples of some of the oldest known coins," Hafner says; the oldest coin on exhibit dates from 600-550 B.C.E. Most of the coins in the exhibition are Greek or Roman.

Coin featuring Roman building  
Reverse of a denarius of M. Volteius M.f. c. 78 B.C.E. from the Aline Abaecherli Boyce Collection of Roman Republican Coins presented in honor of Lily Ross Taylor, Bryn Mawr College Art and Archaeology Collection  

The supporting materials will include texts that illustrate the coins' value as sources of information about the classical past. Two examples are pictured on this page. Of the first, representing a Greek god, Hafner says, "it is a good example of a coin with historical and political significance, as the striding Poseidon, god of the sea, adorns a coin which celebrates the naval victory of King Demetrios (his name is the Greek inscription visible under and beside Poseidon) over Ptolemy at Salamis in 306 B.C.E., at which he gained control of the valuable port of Cyprus, the crossroads of the Eastern Mediterranean."

The second coin, depicting a Roman building, "is a good example of a coin whose iconography has archaeological and socio-religious significance, because this temple of Jupiter Captiolinus no longer stands, but it was the most important temple in the Roman religious system."

The exhibition is open to the Tri-College community Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and to the general public by appointment. For more information, call (610) 526-5022.


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