Monday, March 09, 2015

It's A Good Idea To Know What You Are Talking About Before You Say It

A certain "archaeologist" in Warsaw recently included the following coin image in his blog:

"Vignette: Ancient discs with devilish images for titillation of kaffir."

"kaffir" presumably here (misspelled) refers to Kafir, an Arabic term used by Muslims to describe a subset of society who have read, understood and rejected the message of the Qur'an. It is the only interpretation consistent with the title of the post, Devil-Worshippers and Ancient Art Collecting. 

It is erroneous to believe that these staters, issued by the island of Thasos (off the western coastal region of Thrace) between 435 and 404 b.c. were intended for anyone's titillation. They instead depict a religious theme - ritual abduction. Here is a better preserved example of the type:
Thasos was enriched not only by its legendary silver mines (both on the island itself and on the Thracian mainland nearby), but also by wine produced in abundance on the island, and renowned for its quality.

The Thasians were attracted to the orgiastic cult of Dionysos, both because of the great importance of wine to their society and because of their close ties to indigenous Thracian tribes. Mt. Nysa in Thrace is one legendary site of his infancy (Dio-Nysos, god of Nysa) and Thracian tribes then practiced ritual abduction as part of their marriage ceremonies, as well as in other aspects of their religious lives. The theme of ritual abduction in rural marriage customs did not end with the passing of antiquity, but continued in some areas of Thrace into the twentieth century.

Further online reading:

UPDATE 3/10/2015

The Warsaw blogger has now edited his post to substitute "kuffar" for "kaffir." His intended meaning, apparently, was "unbelievers" or "infidels." He added:
"Another one that went wa-a-a-y above the head of blinkered coineys. "it is only ritual abduction" argues  Dealer Dave, wrapped up [i]n his tiny world of self-justification. Tell that to the fundamentalists when they come for you."

Hmm ... The Warsaw blogger  is going  "wa-a-a-y above the head of" not only this observer, but just about everyone else who doesn't live in his own archaeology-centric world. 

I don't live in a "tiny" world at all, but instead in a grand, wonderful world of collectors in many nations who enrich their lives, those of their families and of their friends through appreciating and studying ancient coins and the fascinating stories they can tell connoisseurs about the societies that long ago created and used them. 

Collectors are very interesting, intelligent and inquisitive individuals, and my rewards as a professional numismatist really are not financial -- they are instead the satisfaction of helping so many fine people learn to understand and more fully appreciate the wonderful world of antiquity.

It was a fascinating world, very different from the one we live in today, much closer to nature, more spiritual and more attractive in many ways. One can literally spend a lifetime learning about it, as the great A. H. M. Jones did, and never learn it all. 

To the studious, contemplative mind, the pleasure of learning is only equaled by the consequent pleasure of sharing this knowledge by helping others to learn.


Blogger Cultural Property Observer said...

Yes, it's odd Mr. Barford thinks ancient coin collectors are so ill-educated. This is a specialty field. Many collectors are very, very well educated and have attained great distinction in business, law, science, the military, government, etc. I've really enjoyed not only collecting ancient coins and learning something about the societies that created them, but meeting some very interesting people along the way.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Dave Welsh said...


When you said that "Many collectors are very, very well educated and have attained great distinction in business, law, science, the military, government, etc." you spoke the truth. Certainly you, Wayne Sayles and Arthur Houghton are among those who have attained such eminence.

It is ironic that a man who failed to attain distinction (or even continued employment) as an archaeologist feels such disdain for his betters.

11:22 AM  

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