TROAS, Dardanos c. 450-420 BCE AR obol; 9 mm, 0.56 gm Obv: cock standing left Rev: cross-hatch pattern Ref: Nomismata 3, 303; Demeester 98; SNG Ashmolean 1119 (all references unverified; I do not have copies of these reference books/catalogs) Clearly this is the ancient inspiration for a classic dish of the US South image source Obvious joke aside, there is a reason these coins caught my attention several years ago (took me a while to win one; they are rare). The reverse type-- this cross-hatching design-- seems to be found only on this type of coin. Who really cares, you say? Probably no one. However, it made me wonder a couple of things about incuse punches used for the reverse of so many archaic and early Hellenistic Greek coins. What is the purpose of having any design on these archaic geometric punches? Why not use a plain, unembellished punch? Why does this coin have cross-hatching instead of one of the more popular styles of geometric reverses? Before taking on the questions, here's an array of reverses with crude punches or simple geometric incuse designs (none are my coins): 1. Kings of Lydia, EL trite, c. 630s-564/53 BCE. The first and most crude type of punch; no real design or geometry. The easiest to make but arguably not as effective in pushing metal into the obverse die. 2. Ionia, Ephesos; Phanes, EL trite, c. 625-500 BCE. Similar to the Lydia trites, with two punches (or one punch joined together?). Crude and probably easy to make. 3. Mysia, Cyzicus, c. 460-420 BCE, EL stater. Quadripartite incuse punch. Note the angles of each square; imagine what the die would look like. This would require more labor than simple lines. 4. Thraco-Macedonian Tribes, AR stater, c. 490 BCE. This reverse is not as simple to make as it seems because the central design is really a punch-- I think it is a full die. Note that the field outside of the squares is flat and in plane with the "+" of the central design, so the flat outer fields must be an integral part of the reverse die. 5. Macedon, Mende, c. 500-470 BCE, AR tetradrachm. "Mill-sail" pattern. I think the reverse die for this coin was also more than a simple punch. It would have incorporated the flat "fields", so the reverse was really a full die rather than a punch. 6. Aegina stater, c. 380-360 BCE. "Skew pattern". Simple, but it arguably requires more skill than the "waffle" die because the engraver hand to exercise care and skill at the intersection of the shorter diagonal line. Of the six styles shown, I think only the first three are what I would consider a punch. The second three were reverse dies which had flat outer margins and raised central elements which created the incuse design. Making the latter types is much more complicated. Question 1: What is the purpose of having any design on the reverse punch? Perhaps the purpose of having some type of engraving on the reverse punch was to help keep the punch from skiving off the flan when it was struck and to keep the flan from flying off the striking platform if the strike was a glancing blow or off-center. The extra engraving would add grip. If this is the reason, and not considering later reverse dies which had more meaningful designs on the reverse (as an identifier, for political messages, for informational content), wouldn't it make sense to do the easiest type of engraving? Another possibility is simply that they (the issuing entity or designer) just wanted some sort of design but didn't think it was worth much effort, hence the initial use of simple designs. I like the first theory best. How about you? Or, perhaps this information has been hashed over and settled long ago and I just didn't do an effective search? Question 2: Why does this Dardanos obol have a crosshatch pattern? The easiest reverse die or punch design would be lines... straight lines, across the entire width of the reverse die. They can be created with a simple graver or a file. Easy-peasy. A few intersecting straight lines would provide good grip and could be engraved in the reverse punch in just a minute or two. When I first saw this type several years ago I thought "Aha! This is better than a punch. It is simple to make, will effectively move metal into the obverse even if struck a little off center, the reverse will never have to look off center, and it will prevent the flan from flying out if struck a little off-center. What a clever design!" All that is needed after casting the punch is a graver or a file and a straight edge. No great care or skill is needed-- just lay down the straight edge and gouge/file the lines. The punch could be any diameter. It could be large enough to effectively move the metal into the obverse die. The punch could even be larger than the coin, so centering wouldn't be an issue. The waffle pattern would cover the entire reverse and it wouldn't ever have to look off-center. "Yes," I thought, "that was very smart of them." Wait a sec, if it was such a great innovation, why was the waffle punch used for such a brief period in Dardanos? Why wasn't the style picked up by neighboring minds? Why are there only eleven of these waffle reverses in ACsearch?? Hmm. Maybe it was deemed ugly? Nah... there are other ugly reverses out there. If the purpose of the reverse punch design was to provide grip, preventing the flan from being ejected from the striking platform, maybe it worked too well! Maybe all those little interstices caused the just-struck flan to stick to the punch. That would certainly be annoying and would slow down production. If the problem with the waffle was the flan sticking to the punch, I'd expect to find a high percentage of brockages. I guess with such a low extant population of the type, finding even one might be hard. I'll keep searching though. I was going to test this but really shouldn't spend time making such a punch, plus I need a sturdier striking platform, plus my Hammer of Hephaestus was a hurricane victim. Maybe someday I'll give it a try. ... Hey, congrats... you made it to the end of my ramblings . Ancient coins... where sometimes so little is known that you are free to make up your own theories. What fun! Comments and theories welcome, or as usual, whatever floats your boat.