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Tokens, Value and Identity: Exploring Monetiform Objects in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The British School at Rome (Rome – Italy)

18-19 October 2018



The Token Communities in the Ancient Mediterranean research project team at the University of Warwick invites submission of abstracts for the upcoming workshop ‘Tokens, Value and Identity’.

This two-day workshop at the British School at Rome aims to better define the multiple roles played by tokens in antiquity and the medieval period. More specifically, the workshop seeks to improve our understanding of the relationship between tokens, value and identity by highlighting the frequently unnoticed work performed by these everyday objects. The continued use of tokens in multiple societies across time (persisting even today in the digital age) suggests that the role played by these artefacts is fundamental to human society.

Tokens have actively shaped culture and civilisation throughout history, beginning with their contribution to the invention of writing and abstract number in the ancient Near East. Discussions at the 2017 Tokens: Culture, Connections, Communities conference suggest that tokens might act as external memory devices, as proof of relationships and obligations, embody intimate sentiments, establish and maintain social hierarchies, and create feelings of “inclusion” and “seclusion” in different communities. Tokens also possess a complex relationship with money, enabling the distribution of goods, services and benefactions without the existence of coins or notes, at times functioning as a type of alternative currency. Unlike money, however, many tokens appear to have been intended as single-use items, to be used in a single context, or to represent a single good or service. These characteristics suggest that tokens operated in a more complex way than the traditional definition of these objects as "something that serves to indicate a fact, event, object, feeling, etc". The multiple uses of these objects continue to pose a challenge for research in this area.

Debate remains surrounding the roles and functions of tokens and the workshop will contribute to this dialogue through a series of detailed case studies from antiquity and the middle ages. In particular, the workshop focuses on two areas
• how tokens are related to value (emotional, economic, social, cultural, personal),
• how tokens (their material, legends, iconography and use) express and contribute to the identities of their makers and users.

Papers of 25 minutes are invited. Speakers are welcome to consider any of the themes detailed above and to bring further questions of their own. The workshop is designed to exchange ideas, methodologies and material in order to continue developing an interdisciplinary approach to this type of material. It is anticipated that the workshop will lead to a better understanding of tokens in archaeological excavations, museum collections and in historical discourse.

This workshop forms part of the Token Communities in the Ancient Mediterranean project, which has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 678042.

Deadline for abstract submission is 16 March 2018. Please email your abstract (max. 300 words, including Title, Name and Affiliation) to Antonino Crisà (