Study of Celtic Coins

This research project started in 2010 and aims to bring new light on two different silver coinages circulating between 4th and 1st century B.C. in the Cisalpine Gaul, ancient name of northern Italy: the drachma, minted by Celtics and native populations, and the Roman victoriatus.

These two coinages are the product of separate and independent evolutions, linked with political, social, military and economic transformations of two deeply different societies. Nonetheless, probably around the last decades of 3rd century, they got in contact and start to circulate in parallel in Cisalpine Gaul. Several issues concerning Cisalpine Gaul's coinage, for different reasons, remain unsolved, as well as its relationship with Roman currency. For example the relative chronology among Cisalpine emissions, the relationship between Celtic and Roman coinage, chemical grouping, the entity of silver debasement and weight loss, etc.

Particular importance in this study is given to the coins of the pre-Roman populations settled in northern Italy that adopted the monetary instrument in a still imprecise but crucial moment of their history, probably between the beginning and the end of the 4th century B.C., after a period characterized by major social changes and large population movements. One of the consequences of these changes is the introduction and the adoption of the monetary instrument, which is the result of the creation of a fiscal system, typical of the new urban dimension. The silver unit, the drachm, is constantly characterized by the imitation of the iconography of Massalia's (present day Marseille, France) heavy drachm, depicting a lion with the legend ΜΑΣΣΑ on reverse and the head of Artemis on the obverse. The reason for this peculiar iconographic choice probably lies in the deep relationships between the city founded by Greeks and the Celts, who were commonly hired by Massalia as mercenaries.

Due to the presence of a silver-enriched layer on surface and the impossibility to use destructive analysis such us metallographic sections to investigate inside the coins, neutron based techniques are used to perform bulk analysis. To perform neutron analysis two facility are used: the INES apparatus at the ISIS (Rutherfhord Appleton Laboratory, UK) and facilities at the Budapest Neutron Centre in Budapest. Measurements at INES are possible thanks to beamtime allocations from the Science and Technology Facilities Council and to the support of CNR. Analysis at Budaperst Neutron Centre are supported by the European CHARISMA project.

The main collaborations are with Superintendence of Piemonte (Dr. Federico Barello), Hungarian National Museum in Budapest (M. Torbágyi), CNR researchers at INES-ISIS (Dr. Antonella Scherillo and Dr. Francesco Grazzi), Budapest Neutron Centre of Budapest (Dr. Zs. Kasztovszky, Dr. L. Szentmiklósi and B. Maroti) and Chemist Department of the University of Torino (Dr. Angelo Agostino).


J. Corsi et al., "Potentialities of X-ray fluorescence analysis in numismatics: the case study of pre-Roman coins from Cisalpine Gaul", Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2017) DOI:10.1007/s12520-016-0371-7

P. Debernardi et al., "Average and core silver content of ancient-debased coins via neutron diffraction and specific gravity", Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2017) DOI 10.1007/s12520-017-0464-y

J. Corsi et al., "Compositional and microstructural characterization of Celtic silver coins from northern Italy using neutron diffraction analysis", Microchemical Journal 126 (2016) 501-508

J. Corsi et al., "Compositional analysis of a historical collection of Cisalpine Gaul's coins kept at the Hungarian National Museum", Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry 30 (2015) 730-737, DOI: 10.1039/c4ja00398e