Featured More to this than meets the eye

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by TIF, Jan 15, 2018.

  1. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    ... but I don't yet know what! This coin was a splurge from many months ago but I hadn't yet posted it, wanting first to satisfy my remaining questions. I've failed to do so and am enlisting your help.

    The coin:

    EGYPT, Alexandria. Nero
    Regnal year 14 (CE 67/8)
    AE diobol; 27 mm, 10.9 gm
    Obv: NEPΩKΛAVK[AIΣΣEBΓEPA]; laureate head right
    Rev: L - IΔ; "vase" (Emmett), or "oinochoe" per others (others are probably correct)
    Ref: Dattari-Savio Pl. 1, 2 (this coin); Dattari cf 286; RPC 5322; Emmett 153.14; Poole (BM, 1892) cf 188?; Milne -; none in a few other minor references I own. Rare.
    ex Dattari collection (Giovanni Dattari, 1858-1923)

    I bought this coin for several reasons. First, I love coins of Roman Egypt, especially ones with unusual or Egypt-specific reverses. Second, I'm a sucker for an old pedigree and this is another ex Dattari coin. Third, I hadn't seen such a detailed oinochoe on a coin (they are found on several tiny denominations, generally with limited detail). Fourth, and the swing factor, because the reverse of this coin is particularly intriguing upon a more careful examination.

    Regarding the name of the reverse object, in calling it a vase Emmett has it wrong except in the most generic sense. That's surprising because similar devices appear on several coins throughout the period of Roman Egypt coin production, and Emmett calls them oinochoe. I think it is an oinochoe, a beaked vessel with a single handle, thin neck, and pouring spout. The etymology suggests oinochoai are used for serving wine, although I don't know if the name is a word assigned in modern times or if there are contemporary attestations to the name of the vessel.

    Bronze, terracotta, and glass oinochoai from https://www.metmuseum.org/

    The body of the vessel is reminiscent of canopic figures such as the ones below. As on these coins, the vessel appears to be sitting on a pillowed pedestal.

    EGYPT, Alexandria. Hadrian
    year 11, CE 126/7
    billon tetradrachm, 26 mm, 12.6 gm
    Obv: AVTKAITPAI AΔPIACEB; laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind
    Rev: L ENΔ EKATOV: Canopus of Osiris right
    Ref: Emmett 827.11, R3; Milne 1205

    EGYPT, Alexandria. Hadrian
    year 18, CE 133/4
    Æ drachm, 26.4 gm
    Obv: AYT KAIC TPAIAN (A∆PIANOC CEB), laureate and draped bust right
    Rev: Canopic jars facing; L I H across fields
    Ref: Emmett 933.18, R1

    When considering bidding on this coin, the thing that really caught my eye is the top portion of the object on the reverse. It seems to be an upside-down symbol for "gold" (a pectoral necklace with drop-like pendants):

    GoldHieroglyphColored.jpg GoldHieroglyph.jpg

    and altogether, the reverse object evokes something found on another coin, the staters of pharaoh Nektanebo II:

    Triton XIX, Lot: 2075. Estimate $50000.
    Sold for $130000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
    EGYPT, Pharonic Kingdom. Nektanebo II. 361-343 BC. AV Stater (16.5mm, 8.16 g, 10h). Horse prancing right / Heiroglyphic representation of “good gold”: pectoral necklace (nebew = “gold”) crossing horizontally over a windpipe and heart (nefer = “good”). FF-BD 1p (D1/R1 – this coin); SNG Berry 1459 (same dies); SNG Copenhagen 1 (same obv. die); ACGC 1064 (same obv. die); Hunt I 106 (same dies); Jameson 2618 (same rev. die). Good VF, toned, slightly off center on reverse. Rare.

    The combination of the pectoral necklace with the trachea and heart connote "perfect gold" or "fine gold".

    Digging through hieroglyphs shows that other symbols were combined with the pectoral necklace to give other meanings.

    from CoinWeek.com

    If the decoration on spout of my coin's pitcher is intentionally the symbol for gold, maybe the design of this vessel's neck and body represent another glyph and combine to give more meaning to the whole of the object? The slender neck resembles a trachea and the body of the vessel is somewhat heart-like, or maybe akin to a canopic jar. Or, is the vessel as a whole an upside-down representation of the hieroglyph for silver (middle picture above). Maybe the vessel on the coin was fabricated in silver in real life? Was it a special type of pitcher, used in specific ceremony?


    Is there meaning beyond simple artistic license? Is this a special or ceremonial pitcher and if so, do examples exist? I haven't found any but I haven't dug for it in great depth.

    What do you think? Are these questions interesting at all or am I just stretching to find mysteries in order to justify overpaying for the coin? :D

    After reading what I've written, it seems like much ado about nothing. I'll continue to pursue the matter anyway :)


    I should write to the BM or a university specializing in Egyptology and ask if they're seen any real-life oinochoai which resemble the one on this coin. Maybe it would lead to an understanding of why such an object was worthy of appearing on a coin.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018
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  3. Mike Margolis

    Mike Margolis Well-Known Member

    My first take on it was that it was a multi-spout oil lamp but like you "I am not an expert" and far from it. It is a cool coin with an amazing provenance. I have some basic ancient Egypt texts if I see anything similar I will let you know.
    LaCointessa and TIF like this.
  4. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    I don’t think it’s much ado about nothing. I do think that few of us have the expertise or insight to push the matter any further than what you have. I find the topic of interest, but have no expertise in the area. Perhaps some dedicated Egyptian collectors will weigh in.
    LaCointessa and TIF like this.
  5. Whizb4ng


    It is quite obviously an early bike pump.
  6. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Dang! Those are some outstanding Alexandrian coins :wideyed:. I, especially, love the Canopus of Osiris. Exquisite coin in an outstanding state of preservation. Jeez...
    LaCointessa and TIF like this.
  7. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    It looks like it would have been superior to the pinch pot style of lamps that were so ubiquitous!

    Whizburger! Long time no see :). How are things?
  8. LaCointessa

    LaCointessa Supporter! Supporter

    I also was going for oil lamp @TIF and I know from having a very mysterious Egyptian made pitcher that one can not always figure out how Egyptian vessels work. Here are some photographs of oil lamps with multiple holes, although, admittedly, these do not have holes lined up in a row extending out from the source of the oil.

    Edited to add: There is no doubt in my mind that an Egyptian could have figured out how to make a lamp like this with some pressure system to push oil (or sufficient fumes?) up and out to keep fire lit even at holes farthest away from oil source.


    various offered on ebay by Laveli331 search:
    Biblical Oil lamp Holy Land Antique Roman Clay Pottery terracotta 7 Nozzles

    Edited to add that these two vessels are not authentic. Thanks @Ken Dorney for causing me to come back and add this clarifying statement.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2018
  9. It's a Mayan king.

    Okidoki, Curtisimo, randygeki and 3 others like this.
  10. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Can't help, but a neat coin all around.
    TIF likes this.
  11. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Agree. Wish I had some insight, but, alas, I have no knowledge on this subject.
    TIF likes this.
  12. Macromius

    Macromius Rarely Present

    A metal ritual vessel of some kind? If it was silver, gold, or electrum that would probably mean that there are no existing examples. What I wonder is this: is it the pouring type or the sprinkling type for ablutions? If it's the latter the spout would be closed off, and the nodes on top which resemble the symbols you posted could have holes in them. There are pottery examples from ancient Crete with multiple holes and strainer type spouts. Given the syncretistic nature of Roman-Egyptian art it could be a combination of things. I'm just speculating here!

    Is the vessel sitting on something or is that just the lower part of the vessel?

    Beautiful coin. I hope you find out what it is. I love a good mystery!
    Mike Margolis, LaCointessa and TIF like this.
  13. Aethelred

    Aethelred The Old Dead King Supporter

    I know an early electric coffee pot when I see one!
    PlanoSteve, Stalight, GerardV and 2 others like this.
  14. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    An electric coffee pot?

    Everyone knows that ancient Egyptian homes were powered by dilithium crystals. Duh.

  15. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Come on guys, its definitely an elaborate hookah...

    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
    Okidoki, Stalight, MFish and 11 others like this.
  16. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply :)

    I'm betting on a specific ceremonial function.

    At first I doubted that it was a pouring vessel because of the very narrow neck, angularity, and the knobby things pointing upward. There are pictures of vaguely similar vessels online, so I do believe it is an oinichoe. It's certainly not a everyday household version though.
    GerardV likes this.
  17. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Mysterious object on that Nero diobol TIF, pretty shure its not an oinochoe , but no clue what it actually represents.

    Here's a Tet with an oinichoe on the reverse, which were used to pour out wine, its surrounded with grapes.

    dlhill132, Okidoki, VDB and 9 others like this.
  18. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Redditor Lucis Aeternae

    Well @TIF I studied Egyptian Archaeology and Hieroglyphics in college and I'm still not sure what this represents. However, I really like your analysis of gold (nebew) silver (hedj) and electrum. The traditional use of hieroglyphics began fading in the Roman era so that the last known hieroglyph was carved on the island of Philae in the time of Theodosius. After that, texts were written in Coptic and hieroglyphs disappear from the historical record. Very cool depiction of Canopic jars as well.
    Volodya, Theodosius and TIF like this.
  19. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Redditor Lucis Aeternae

    Here is the last known hieroglyphic inscription dating from 394 A.D. and carved on the gate of Hadrian...

    Roman Collector, Okidoki, Gao and 7 others like this.
  20. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  21. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Well now, QG... you may have helped solve a couple of mysteries. Firstly, the name and function of the thing on my coin and secondly, why silphium became extinct during Nero's reign.

    Clearly it's a six-bowled bong. :joyful::joyful:

    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
    SeanR90, Harshad, Curtisimo and 35 others like this.
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