World’s largest die study progresses with new material

The Roman Republican Die Project (RRDP), launched late last year, has completed its first significant data upload.

Sponsored by the American Numismatic Society (ANS), the platform launched as a functional integrated database system in December, since which time it has been searchable at numismatics.org/rrdp, focusing on Roman coinage from the period of the Roman Republic (509–27 BCE).

The project relies on the foundational research of Richard Shaefer, who compiled a significant archive of images of Roman Republican coins and organized these images by distinctive die types. Last November, the ANS received a grant from the Arete Foundation for a two-year pilot project to build a database capable of reflecting Schaefer’s die analyses and enabling that work to be expanded in the future by both Schaefer and the RRDP team.

The digitized version of Schaefer’s archive is available via the digital ANS archives, “ARCHER.”

“Since 1995 he has given the project on average one to two hours of his time each day,” reads an article authored by Lucia Carbone and Liv Mariah Yarrow in Issue 3, 2019, of ANS Magazine, which is published quarterly by the society. “This means he has spent more than 13,000 hours collecting and analyzing all this material. For each issue of struck coins, Schaefer determines the die links for either obverse or reverse.”

PILOT PROJECT

The RRDP draws from and integrates the Coinage of the Roman Republic Online (CRRO) database, adding more than 5,000 new specimens dating from 92-75 BCE.

If this pilot project is successful, the RRDP team aims to develop a means by which new materials can be directly incorporated into RRDP through a web interface. This will allow the platform to be a “living” die study, something constantly improving in its accuracy, rather than a static archive. The ANS plans to collaborate with other die study initiatives to ensure the RRDP data is fully integrated into other major research projects.

The RRDP offers particular innovation by drawing on data from archival auction catalogue materials in addition to major numismatic collections all over the world. Archival materials are housed digitally in the online ARCHER archives plus a new searchable database – “SITNAM: Integrated Technology for Non-LOD and Auction Materials” – which has isolated type specimens from those archives.

THE RRDP TEAM

Dr. Lucia Carbone, the assistant curator of Roman Coins at the ANS, and Professor Liv Yarrow, of CUNY Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, are the project’s co-directors.

Numismatic researcher Jeremy Haag has also partnered with Yarrow to present a case study on how the RRDP has furthered his research.

Carbone and Yarrow authored a recent piece, “Developments and Preliminary Data Release for the Roman Republican Die Project,” for Pocket Change, the ANS blog. It explains the current implementation progress.

In addition to Carbone and Yarrow, Ethan Gruber, the ANS director of data science, developed the extensive technical components of the project.

Columbia University PhD candidate Alice Sharpless works part time as a curatorial assistant on the project and will continue full time later this year.

Miriam Bernstein, who received a Kurz Undergraduate Research Assistantship to work on the project, continues to support the RRDP in a volunteer capacity.

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