Subject:      Phoenician coins found in the Azores (update)
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/08/14
Message-ID:   <5svhss$l80$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology,rec.collecting.coins,soc.history

I received this information from Miguel Angel Ruz , to whom
I'm very grateful. I think some readers will be interested to receive this
update to our previous discussion.

As some in sci.arch may rememer, this was a discussion of a trove of
Phoenician coins found on Corvo island in the Azores in the 18th century.
They were described in early publications, but their whereabouts at this
time are unclear.

We should keep in mind that the Azores are half way to America, right in
the middle of the Atlantic. So the find, and it seems authentic, will
indicate the presence of ancient Phoenicians half way to America.

Miguel doesn't agree with me. He thinks the coins were the property of a
collector. This seems very unlikely to me. Which collector? From what
century? His hypothesis needs spelling out in detail.

His discussion is very technical, and I hope that some people
knowledgeable about Phoenician coins will offer their opinions about this
very interesting discovery.

Best regards,


[begin quote from Miguel]

Fortunately, I found the NUMISMA 1962 article. Unfortunately it was
written in german. The article had attached an abstract and some
comments from the editor (now in spanish), but I could not see other
information apart from the things we knew: The report of a finding
of some coins in Azores by a Swedish traveller. The real piece of
information was the plate with the drawings of the coins.

The iconography shown in the coins is clearly carthaginian (I think
you should be glad to hear that :-), showing the usual types of
Tanit head, horse and palm tree. There are not two cyrenian coins,
but just one, the coin with the horned head. This puzzled me in two

a) The other coin which was seen as cyrenian showed a clear
   carthaginian iconography. Why, then qualifying this coin as

b) The obverse type (horned head) is Cyrenian, and the reverse
   inscription is also cyrenian (KYRA, if I remember it well), but
   the reverse type is somewhat strange: it seems to be a palm tree,
   but this should not be cyrenian at all. Cyrenian coins usually
   have a silphium plant as reverse type. Finally I decided that
   Podolyn just tried to represent the silphium plant (which you
   know it had became extinct in Podolyn's time) as some other
   known thing.

So finally, we had some carthaginian gold and bronze coins plus one
cyrenian bronze coins. The next thing to do was to date the pieces.
As I've explained you before, it is not easy to date according just
to artistic styles. From now on I've used a very well known
source, "Carthaginian gold and electrum coins", from Jenkins and
Lewis. It was really easy, because the book has a chapter devoted to
the different hoards of carthaginian coins found, and Corvo island
finding was referred. Here it is what Jenkins and Lewis had to say
about those coins:

"This extremely interesting find was originally published with an
engraving in 1778: see also R. Hennig, Archäologischer Anzeiger,
1927, 11-19, and W. Schawabacher, Schweizer Münzblätter, Nov, 1962,
22 ff. The carthaginian coins included two of gold - a fith and a
tenth of Group III - together with fourth and third century bronzes
(the latest, nº 6 in the engraving, being a variant of the basic
type minted in the second Punic war): also included was an early
third-century bronze of Cyrene."

Group III coins are gold coins minted in Carthage between 350 and
320 BC, and are virtually equal to some coins of group IV, which
were minted between 320 and 310 BC. In fact, starting from some
drawings it is very difficult, if not impossible, to assing the
coins to one or other groups. The difference between group III
and group IV is, mainly, the gold contents and the weight.

Group III coins have around a 95% of gold, while group IV coins
have, more or less, the 72 % (they are electrum coins), but
there is not almost any visual difference. Furthermore, group
III coins were minted according to a pattern of 9.5 gr per stater,
while group IV used a pattern of, more or less, 7.5 gr. (the
pattern corresponding to the phoenician shekel). Perhaps now
it will become clearer why I said it was impossible to date
coins with such a precission just using Podolyn's drawings.

So, to conclude, what do we have?

-> Two carthaginian gold coins, probably minted at Carthage, from
   mid fourth century BC.
-> An early third century cyrenean bronze.
-> Some carthaginian bronze coins, whose dates are spread over one
   century (they are siculo-punic bronze coins from the first and
   second punic wars).

>From all of the above, the finding is composed by:

a) Different types of coins, used in very different ways: gold
coins were used to international trade; bronze coins were usually
used as local currency.
b) Coins from very different places: gold coins are probably from
Carthage; one of the bronze coins came from Cyrene, while the others
came, probably, from Sicily (Jenkins book has also an
appendix about bronze coins, where most of the types you can see
on the bronze coins can be seen)
c) Coins whose dates are spread over a century.

>From my point of view, all this information strongly
suggest that we've found some collector coins, and not a pot of
coins put in Azores by carthaginians. Usually gold and bronze coins
were not mixed and, of course, bronze coins from the first and
the second punic wars were not used together ;-). Even more, in the
usual case, bronze coins from one place usually are not directly
usable at other places.

Well, it has been really long, and I just hope two things:

a) That I did not forget anything.
b) That I gave you enough information to show you that a detailed
   analysis should conclude that the find is extremely interesting,
   but not related to any Carthaginian presence in Azores.

Kind regards,
Miguel Angel Ruz

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