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Corrected Attribution of the Coinex Hoard

         Some Problems (and Solutions) in Dating Ptolemaic Bronze Coins        

It is generally recognized that establishing the dates of Ptolemaic bronze coins is often very difficult.  The almost invariant type of these coins have only a head of Zeus on the obverse rather than a portrait of one of the Ptolemaic kings that would indicate the reigning authority.  The reverses predominantly show either one or two eagles together with the legend  ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ  (i.e., Ptolemy King, in Greek).  Since every Ptolemaic king from 305 to 30 BC had the same name, this legend, like the Zeus head, is not helpful in determining when a coin was produced.  Nevertheless, some seemingly minor details on many Ptolemaic bronze coins are keys to obtaining a date (or at least a period) when they were produced.Click for information on Zeus heads, one or two eagle reverses, and legends.

The various representations of Zeus generally give little or no information about dates. Click to give an enlarged view of the control mark

For example, shown here is a typical one-eagle coin that has a small monogram (or initial) between the legs of the eagle (move the mouse pointer over the image to find this so-called "control mark"; click on the coin to view an enlargement).  The same control mark also appears on a rare silver coin known to be of Ptolemy IV, thus this bronze coin can also be dated to Ptolemy IV (221-204 BC).as shown by E. T. Newell (1935), click here for reference  Note that coins of the type shown here (left) were present in the Coinex hoard.  However, all those in the hoard also showed a countermark that was applied sometime later.

Another example of the use of symbols and control marks (i.e., monograms or initials that were put into the dies and used to track the sequence of production and/or to denote officials in charge over relatively short periods of times) is given below.

Click to see an enlargement of the legend. IClick to see comments on symbols and control marks.

Similar styles tend to indicate a relationship of coins (see coin III). IIClick to see comments on symbols and control marks.

Similar styles tend to indicate a relationship of coins (see coin II). IIIClick to see comments on symbols. 

Shown are three coins all with Zeus obverses and two-eagle reverses.  The control marks and cornucopia symbols Find control marks and symbols indicate a close chronological association of these coins [click on the coins for further details].  The first coin is very unusual in having an obverse legend naming Queen Cleopatra (i.e., ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΗΣ ΚΛΕΟΠΑΤΡΑΣ). Find name of Cleopatra  [Also click on the coin for an enlargement.]

From the Corinth hoard, coin I has been assigned to Cleopatra I (180-176 BC) as regent for her young son Ptolemy VI;  coins III, and therefore II, are somewhat later and are assigned to the first Cleopatra's son and daughter, i.e., Ptolemy VI with Cleopatra II (176-164 BC).M. Thompson, ‘A Ptolemaic bronze hoard from Corinth’, Hesperia, 20, 1951, p. 355-67.  Coins of type III (designated as Sv1424 from Svoronos' catalog) are a major component of the Coinex hoard, making up some 38% (63 examples), and they will be important in helping assign other coins in the hoard.

As illustrated above, if the date of one coin is known, the dates of similar coins can be determined by the presence of related symbols and control marks.  For completely different coins in a hoard, as shown on the next page,  their physical presence by being buried together can also give chronological information.


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