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Historical Article

Etruria, Populonia - Etruscan Coinage



Etruscan coins are totally different from any others in the ancient world and are characterised by blank reverses and marks of value on the obverses, expressed in what is commonly called Roman numerals, which are in fact Etruscan. The dating of this issue has long been controversial, ranging between the 5th to the 3rd centuries BC, leading G. K. Jenkins to publish a carefully thought-out article on the subject, stating in NumChron 1955 (pg. 132) that, "the dating of Etruscan coins is notoriously difficult…yet there appears to be no hoard evidence of value for chronology." However, there has recently appeared find evidence for the Populonia 20-unit silver issue in the Ponte Gini find, published by G. Ciampoltrini, L’Insediamento etrusco nella valle del Serchio, Sudi Etruschi 62 (1996), pl. 27, 1 & 2, which suggests a date in the first half of the third century BC. If the find date is correct, it would mean that Populonia issued silver coinage tariffed in silver asses compatible with the monetiform cast bronze (aes grave), tariffed in Roman pounds and ounces and introduced throughout central Italy from about 280 BC. The Populonian 20-unit issue and its sub divisions 10, 5, 2 1/2 and 1 units or asses are on exactly the same weight standard of the Roman silver denarius 10 of asses, first encountered in the Morgantina hoard in Sicily and dated by Crawford to circa 212/1 BC.

ETRURIA, Populonia. After 211 BC. AR 20 Asses (8.44 gm). Gorgoneion facing; X:X below / Blank. Vecchi II 55; cf. SNG ANS 78; HN Italy 152; SNG Ashmolean 5 (same obverse die).