Holding ancient history in the palm of your hand
30 May 2019
Former University of Canterbury staff member Maureen Ahern has bequeathed 12 Roman and Judaean coins to the UC Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities, located in the Christchurch Arts Centre.
Former University of Canterbury staff member Maureen Ahern has generously bequeathed 12 Roman and Judaean coins to the UC Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities, located in the Christchurch Arts Centre.
The coins are on long-term loan until the ownership transfers permanently to UC. This ensures they can be included in the museum’s teaching and research programmes immediately to provide inspiration, reflection and hands-on learning. The coins offer a tangible way for UC students, as well as secondary and primary school students, to consider the past.
A member of the PhiloLogie Society, Ms Ahern’s interest in collecting ancient coins started with studying classics at UC. Later, working in the Alumni department, she became aware of donated items, which planted the seed for making a bequest.
“I enjoyed collecting these coins. You can go back in time to a real world,” she says.
“Students of all ages can consider history from economic, political and social perspectives. In the past, history has been more about the elites but these coins were used daily by ordinary people.
Her interest is in Judaean and Biblical coins. The coins range from a silver shekel from Tyre, 86BCE, (Jewish adults had to pay an annual sum to the Jerusalem Temple of a half shekel) to a bronze coin of King Agrippa I, 37CE, to bronze coins of the Roman governors of Judaea 10CE-62CE. The last coin in the collection is a bronze coin of the Emperor Domitian, 83CE. This coin was a reference to the Roman victory against the Jews in 70CE, which resulted in the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
“The coins are basic and functional as they were necessary for everyone to live their lives. Money did not have a denomination, its value was determined by weight,” says Ms Ahern.
Students of all ages can use the coins as part of their cultural comparative studies in social studies and mathematics classes, including geometry. Coins were an important method of propaganda. Students are encouraged to reflect on the social, political and economic messages and how symbolism is used.
“I decided to donate my collection to the Teece Museum as it is a specialised antiquities museum and I knew my collection would be well looked after,” says Ms Ahern.
“The Logie collection was mostly in storage at UC after the earthquakes but now we have this lovely Teece Museum facility so the timing seems right to me. I’m delighted to be able to share my interest in coins and history with Canterbury students of all ages.”
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