Ancient coins discovered by FSU team now on display in Italian exhibit
A treasure trove of ancient Roman silver coins discovered by a team from Florida State University is now on public display for the first time in Italy.
“Treasure of Chianti” is on display until September 3 at the Museum of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, Italy. The exhibit features 194 silver coins discovered by an FSU team in 2015 at the Cetamura del Chianti excavation site, northeast of Siena, Italy.
The top of Cetamura hill was home to Etruscans, Romans and Italians in the Middle Ages, and the site has been the subject of research excavations since 1973. Florida State International Programs is currently supervising the work.
The exhibits on display date back to the period of the Roman Republic in the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE and many pieces are considered to be in superb condition. Excavators theorize that the coins may have been part of the severance pay of a Roman soldier who fought in the famous Battle of Actium in 31 BCE between Octavian (Augustus) and Mark Antony and Cleopatra. The soldier may have buried the coins to keep them safe by the gods of Cetamura, but never returned to collect them.
“The treasure is without a doubt our most important find in Cetamura and one of the most important in the Chianti region,” said FSU Classics Department Professor Nancy de Grummond, who led the excavation team. “It firmly documents the timing of the Romanization of Cetamura, previously Etruscan, and is unparalleled in Chianti.”
The exhibit includes 178 specimens of the silver denarius, the standard Roman coin of the Republican period, and 16 of the quinarius, worth half a denarius.
Researchers are particularly interested in coins struck by Marc Antoine, including a rare copy with his own face on one side and that of Cleopatra on the other. There are also 22 examples of Antony’s “ship’s money”, which feature his warships on the front and legionary standards on the back. Researchers said that Antony’s and Cleopatra’s war chests were evidently confiscated by Octavian after the battle and used to pay his victorious troops.
In preparation for the exhibition, the rooms were cleaned and photographed by Nóra Marosi of the Studio Arts College International in Florence with the sponsorship of the Friends of Florence philanthropic association. Lora Holland Goldthwaite, professor and chair of classical studies at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, was the principal coin researcher and authored the exhibition catalog.
The members of the FSU team behind the exhibition are among the first to work in the new headquarters of FSU’s Florence study center, Palazzo Bagnesi. The recently renovated palace is located in Via dei Neri, a few blocks from the Arno River, in the heart of old Florence. de Grummond said he is using the new study center as a base camp under the direction of Frank Nero, director of the FSU Florence program, was essential to the success of the exhibition.
“We have relied on the expertise of former FSU Florence and Cetamura students for some of the highest level contributions to the exhibition,” said de Grummond.
The show is a homecoming for former FSU student and exhibition coordinator Katherine T. Brown, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Walsh University, who served as a program assistant in Florence in 1989. Jessica Rassau , who holds a Masters in Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies from FSU and is now an Accessibility and Inclusion Specialist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, carefully planned the placement of each coin in the exhibition.
While the pieces are on display in Siena, an exhibition designed by students will also take place simultaneously at the Gallery of Fine Arts in Palazzo Bagnesi. FSU students Nina Perdomo and Jamie Fontana, majors in classical archeology and recipients of Rodney Reeves Museum Scholarships, prepared the inaugural event of the gallery: an exhibition of photos and 3D printing of the discoveries of the FSU excavations in Cetamura. The photos, also featured in the Siena exhibition, were captured using the innovative technique of Reflectance Transformation Imaging, with funding from Friends of Florence. The Palazzo Bagnesi exhibition is scheduled to open to the public on June 11.
For more information on the “Treasure of Chianti” exhibition, visit santamariadellascala.com.
For the latest updates on excavation at Cetamura, visit cetamuradelchianti.com.