The BACH project studies primarily the Islamic history of Balkh by corroborating literary sources and material evidence. Most of the material sources come from the excavation of the Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan (DAFA) directed by Philippe Marquis in the larger urban area of the historical city Balkh from 2004 and 2009. The Project is directed by Prof. Edmund Herzig, University of Oxford, and Dr. Arezou Azad, University of Birmingham. The research on the archaeological material from the Islamic layers concentrates on ceramics (Piérre Siméon) and the coin finds (Stefan Heidemann and Matthias Naue), in two field missions, September 14 to 22 in 2012 (SH) and August 27 to September 30, 2013. The mission had two goals, study of the coins finds as historical source, which included the set up of a field conservation lab at DAFA, and training in numismatics and coin conservation for staff of the National Museum of Afghanistan.
Reconstructing a Numismatic Source for Historical Research
3,500 coins were studied, most of them found in Tepe Zargaran, which was at different times. The sequence of coin finds from the excavation met mostly the expectations, formed already before the excavation on the basis of the extensive catalogued material from the mint of Balkh. The known locally struck copper coin types were used and discarded from the Islamic conquest to the end of the Abbasid sequence of coppers in the early 9th century, again local coin types were struck in the 10th century, which are also present in the finds. The study offered methodological challenge as most of the coins were extremely corroded, and some of them have turned into cuprite fused with pebbles. The second challenge was the interpretation of the coin finds as a record of Tepe Zargaran within the urban spatial context. Tepe Zargaran functioned in different periods, as one urban center of the Hellenistic colony or as suburb, village or even farmland.
Training in Coin Conservation, Documentation and Numismatics
Already in 2012 Stefan Heidemann held a workshop in Islamic numismatics and history at DAFA and the National Museum. In summer 2013 Stefan Heidemann and Matthias Naue continued the training of museum staff with a workshop on conservation and documentation and also with on-the-job training for two staff members of the National Museum.
This video was produced by Matthias Naue, Universität Hamburg, while conducting fieldwork for the numismatic research of the Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project with: During their conservation of the coins, the Hamburg team had the opportunity to work alongside staff from the National Museum of Afghanistan to train them methods, as well as find documentation, and coin identification. The video outlines the team’s aims, and presents interviews with the two Museum staff who explain what they were able to gain from the work. Owing to the highly corroded state of the copper alloy coins and the volume of excavated material to be analysed, a chemical method was used to remove some of the oxidized material. It was made clear during the training, therefore, that this method is unsuitable for general conservation of the Museum artefacts, and is a rapid method focussing only on the legibility of the coin inscriptions and insignia.
For further Information see the Homepage of the BACH-Project.