Coins restored thanks to Friends of Florence support

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Coins restored thanks to Friends of Florence support
Roman silver denarius with portrait of Mark Antony. RTI Photographs of Cetamura coins courtesy of Friends of Florence.

FLORENCE.- A trove of 194 Roman coins dating from 169 BCE to 27 BCE discovered in 2015 at an archaeological site in Chianti, Italy, are now on public display for the first time in the Santa Maria della Scala Museum in Siena. Friends of Florence funded the restoration and preparation of the silver coins to enable historical, cultural, numismatic, and metallurgic research. This effort yielded Treasure of Chianti: Silver Coinage of the Roman Republic from Cetamura del Chianti, an exhibition that opened May 29 and remains on view through September 2, 2021. The presentation contextualizes the coins within the region’s history and the Republican age.

The project was organized and led by Florida State University; the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le province di Siena, Grosseto, e Arezzo; the Comune di Siena; and the Santa Maria della Scala Museum in collaboration with Friends of Florence and the Studio Arts College International (SACI) in Florence.

Found in a flask buried in what was the ancient Tuscan city of Cetamura where Etruscan fortified settlements were inhabited for centuries, researchers believe that the cache was likely a payment to a veteran soldier who fought in the Battle of Actium (31 BCE). During the pivotal sea battle, Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s fleet was overwhelmed by Octavian’s navy thereby solidifying his command of the Roman Empire as Augustus Caesar. A coin minted in 32 BCE depicts Mark Antony’s profile on one side and the Egyptian queen facing a ship’s prow on the other while others bear images of Octavian.

The discovery was made in 2015 by a team from Florida State University (FSU) directed by Dr. Nancy de Grummond, in collaboration with Ichnos: Archeologia, Ambiente e Sperimentazione from Montelupo Fiorentino. Dr. de Grummond is the M. Lynette Thompson Distinguished Research Professor of Classics at FSU and serves as director of excavations at Cetamura that have been underway since 1973.

The coins underwent micro-excavation and conservation in SACI’s archaeological laboratory under the supervision of Prof. Nra Marosi. During the Covid-19 pandemic, they were transferred to the Santa Maria della Scala Museum’s laboratories for completion. An exhibition catalogue in English is available for sale at the Museum.

The conservation process revealed new information about the artist-minters’ techniques and experiments, who and what influenced them, and their patrons. The trove was unearthed yards from a large well that for almost 200 years received religious items and grape seeds, providing evidence of the Etruscan and Roman wine-growing tradition in the heart of the Chianti region.

Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, President of Friends of Florence, said, “This extraordinary discovery attracted our attention immediately, conjuring up images of the Battle of Actium veteran and his retirement to the Chianti area. Combining history, archaeology, art, science, and the work of SACI students and Siena restorers, this project intrigued the many Friends of Florence donors and garnered their support. Their generosity made it possible to conduct the five-year campaign of analysis, restoration, and research, and develop a forthcoming publication examining this priceless heritage in depth. Our gratitude goes to our colleagues at the Museo di Santa Maria della Scala for hosting this exhibition to showcase a marvelous, multi-layered slice of history.”

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