History from coins: the use and value of coins in the ancient Western Indian Ocean ports

History from coins: the use and value of coins in the ancient Western Indian Ocean ports
Created at 19.07.2023 by Mariusz Gwiazda in Project

National Science Centre, Poland Grant ‘Sonata 17’ no 2021/43/D/HS3/00350 / Project director: Dr. Emilia Smagur

Coins constitute a fascinating group of objects found at Indian Ocean port sites. Indigenous and foreign, they are being discovered in hoards, deposited in religious buildings, in graves and residential structures or as stray finds. However, their common perception as indicators of fluctuations of trade and site prosperity resulted in relatively little interest in their roles beyond that of their economic value.

The project aims to explore the potential of coin finds as a tool for understanding the economic and social history of ancient port communities. It aims to provide a new holistic view on how people inhabiting and visiting those settlements that were active in the sea trade used coins. Therefore, the similarities and differences between various port communities in their attitudes towards coins will be explored. The processes through which value was attributed to objects will be examined as well. Last but not least, the project aims to investigate whether coin finds from particular type of settlement (port town) can help with its categorisations.

The research is carried out in five main stages which include creating databases and datasets of coin finds from studied ports, analysing coin finds, examining the value of coins in ports, comparing coin use and value in ancient ports, and creating the comprehensive synthesis on coin use and value in the Western Indian Ocean ports. The concept of value associated with the object agency and object biography approaches provide theoretical frameworks on which the project is based.