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Silver Isotopes and the Rise of Money

Objective

Silver was the primary metal of economic exchange and military finances in ancient Mediterranean and Near-Eastern societies. Silver isotopes will help quantify monetization of these societies by identifying Ag mineral sources, monetary sinks, and its major transfer routes. High-precision stable Ag isotope analysis initiated in Lyon has shed new light on the provenance of silver coinage. This is because Ag isotopes are distinctive of coinage’s intrinsic value in contrast to traditionally-used Pb and Cu isotopes, which may characterize impurities or additives.
The common belief that PbS (galena) ores accounted most of the silver mined in the antique world will be tested. We will extract Ag from ores around the Mediterranean and test PbS prevalence over As and Sb sulfosalts and low-temperature ores with Ag, Cu, and Pb isotopes and trace elements.
Our work will address major questions: (i) understand the sources of unminted silver as a precursor to coinage; (ii) use Ag isotope fingerprinting of the earliest coinages of Athens to identify the contributions of Greek mines to the development of the world’s first democracy; (iii) map the Greek and Persian mines which sourced the treasure captured by Alexander the Great, and investigate the spread of its silver; (iv) study the causes of the monetary reform of the Roman Republic in 211 BC; and (v) model the silver cycle from mines to coinage and artefacts in its economic context.
In the short term this project represents radical scientific innovation, which will pave the way for a global and quantitative understanding of the history of monetary development in the ancient Mediterranean. In the long term, it will contribute to the emergence of a community of analysts, numismatists and economic historians with shared expertise about the monetization of ancient societies and their management of precious metal resources.

Host institution

ECOLE NORMALE SUPERIEURE DE LYON
Net EU contribution
€ 1 987 608,75
Address
Parvis Rene Descartes 15
69342 Lyon
France

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Region
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Rhône-Alpes Rhône
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (3)

ECOLE NORMALE SUPERIEURE DE LYON
France
Net EU contribution
€ 1 987 608,75
Address
Parvis Rene Descartes 15
69342 Lyon

See on map

Region
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Rhône-Alpes Rhône
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00
Third-party

Legal entity other than a subcontractor which is affiliated or legally linked to a participant. The entity carries out work under the conditions laid down in the Grant Agreement, supplies goods or provides services for the action, but did not sign the Grant Agreement. A third party abides by the rules applicable to its related participant under the Grant Agreement with regard to eligibility of costs and control of expenditure.

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS
France
Net EU contribution
€ 344 676,25
Address
Rue Michel Ange 3
75794 Paris

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Region
Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00
FONDATION POUR L'UNIVERSITE DE LYON
France
Net EU contribution
€ 163 957,50
Address
35 Rue De Marseille
69007 Lyon

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Region
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Rhône-Alpes Rhône
Activity type
Other
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00