Objectives

Some web solutions make it possible to retrieve data and display the location of ancient mints and coin finds on digital maps, but they do not present codified and detailed descriptions of coin iconographies. The "Digital Iconographic Atlas of Numismatics in Antiquity" (DIANA) is a web application that provides an in-depth analysis of ancient coins specifically considering the details of their iconography, chronology, and the geographical location of their mints. Thanks to this approach, DIANA allows a more detailed study of coin iconographies through time and space than other existing web applications.

Nowadays, in the field of coin iconography, there are a few works properly addressing the involved scientific requirements. Several web sites use a map representation to display money data, even if the location of ancient places is often imprecise and uncertain, since modern cities are not always located in the same place as their ancient counterpart. Moreover, existing solutions do not allow a detailed study of coin iconographies properly considering time and places.

The web application allows users to search, retrieved, and displayed data using digital map in oder to perform an in-dept diachronic study. The DIANA's digital archive is based on a relational Data Base Management System (DBMS). The web application is developed combining both server-side and client-side programming languages. The server-side is developed using the PHP language, whereas the client-side is developed using Javascript. In order to provide users a good degree of reactiveness, DIANA has been developed adopting the Asymchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) programming technique. In order to build digital maps, the system uses the Google Maps Platform as a Service (PaaS). A mint can be searched on DIANA considering a target coin iconography through a web form. By means of AJAX requests, data are retrieved on the DIANA's digital archive and they are sent in XML format to the user's web browser. After that, the web browser processes the received data and it forwards a second AJAX request to the Google Map PaaS that return a digital map displaying the mint and ancient coins.

Scientific background. The die engraver is used to select the most significant and emblematic images, which allow each type to acquire a specific identity and to convey messages that are functional to the policy of the rulers. The iconic language of coinage consequently represents a technical and specialist lexicon. The lexical method (‘image as word’) reconstructs 'the history of the coin type', or the 'stratigraphic representation' of its ‘basic’ meaning and, using a multidisciplinary method, retrieves the relationship between the images and the cultural context in which they are used. The method is based on the collection of the documents over space and time and on their interpretation: the wide-ranging collection of data makes it possible to verify phenomena of continuity or irregularity in the meaning of the iconography.

In this scientific context, DIANA will be useful in order to:

1. simplify the interpretation of coin iconography to promote and increase awareness of the numismatic heritage;

2. view coin images as historical document of the cultural environment which produced them or used them;

3. reconstruct the relations and influences between peoples on the basis of the ‘journeys’ of coin images in the Mediterranean;

4. offer to researchers in other fields of the Antiquity an overview of the distribution of the iconic subjects and of cultural areas to which they belong; e.g., for the archaeologist it is important to know ‘where’ some subjects were used. In fact, the coin is one of the few ancient artifacts that you know, with absolute certainty, the places of production. Then, it is possible to compare - in some sample areas - figurative subjects on coins with those found in the same areas on the other archaeological documents, locally produced or imported from abroad, to verify their appurtenance and coherence with the cultural heritage of the country. 

Compared to other existing web applications, strength is the standardization of all the 'voices' to be used for the description of the iconography. The entries are the types surveyed within the Lexicon Iconographicum Numismaticae Project (Universities of Messina, Bologna, Genoa and Milan), including Personages (mythological and historical persons), Animals / Monsters, Flora and inanimate Objects.