Saturday, April 9, 2011

John Papadopoulos on The Origins of Money: Coinage, Art and the Construction of Value in the Ancient Mediterranean

Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 11am, in the Pillsbury Auditorium at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts:

One of the most critical developments in the course of Mediterranean history was the invention of coinage. The quest for metals – the very commodities that define our periodization of Greece (Copper Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age) – is not simply an issue of technological innovations or the vicissitudes of supply or the mechanics of regional networks, but a real search for structuring commodities of value that ultimately leads to an economic system of exchange not limited to elites. The culmination is the invention of coinage, which first occurs in western Anatolia and east Greece in the cultural milieu of the later seventh and sixth centuries BC, an innovation with global consequences. By focusing on the early coinage of several Greek centers, more particularly on the emblems that certain city-states chose for their coinage, images that hark back to prehistoric measures of value – cattle, bronze tripods, grain – this paper challenges long-held assumptions as to the economic underpinnings of coinage. Struck by the state – the polis – these emblems sought to represent a collective identity. By boldly minting their identity on silver coinage, the Greek city-states chose money, the very vehicle of value, in order to create relations of dominance and to produce social orders that had not existed before.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Williams, J. (ed.), Money: A History. London, British Museum Press: 1997

About the Speaker:

John K. Papadopoulos is Professor of Archaeology & Classics with the Cotsen Institute, University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Papadopoulos received his PhD from the University of Sydney, and remained there as a professor until 1994, when he took a curator position at the J. Paul Getty Museum. He has been at UCLA since 2001. His areas of specialization are the archaeology of Greece (especially Late Bronze Age, Early Iron Age, Archaic and Classical periods), the archaeology of colonization, and the integration of archaeological and literary evidence in the study of the past. He has excavated widely in Australia at Aboriginal and historic sites, as well as in Greece, Albania and Italy. He is currently the co-director at excavations of a prehistoric burial tumulus at Lofkënd, Albania. Professor Papadopoulos has authored, co-authored or edited 9 books and over 75 articles. He has held both the AIA’s Norton and Joukowksy Fellowships, and in 2010/2011 is the AIA’s Thompson Lecturer.

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