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Baylor Art History Students Explore Roman Emperor's Political Ideology

Oct. 9, 2013

For the 2013-2014 academic year, Dr. Nathan T. Elkins (Assistant Professor of Art History, Greek and Roman Art) received an Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activities Grant (URSA) from Baylor University for the project "Coinage and Power in the Reign of Nerva, AD 96-98." URSA grants provide up to $5,000 to support an undergraduate research assistant involved in a faculty research project; involved students are expected to participate actively in the research and to present at URSA Scholars Week. When possible, students are also encouraged to present at professional conferences and to publish an aspect of the research.

The student selected to work on Dr. Elkins' grant project is Xander Gardere (senior, Art History major). The research project explores the political image that Nerva, who ruled for only sixteen months, projected on his imperial coinage. In the absence of forms of state-sanctioned art and sparse historical sources that dwell on his succession crisis, the iconography on the coinage provides one of the best means to approach the political image that he wished to project to his subjects.

During the academic year, Xander is working approximately 10 hours a week collating information on the find spots of Nerva's coinage. At the end of the data collection process, both Dr. Elkins and Xander will begin to analyze trends in the distribution of Nerva's coin iconography in order to identify patterns in audience targeting. In July 2013, Xander spent 11 days in Frankfurt, Germany gathering information on the distribution of Nerva's coin finds at the Goethe Universität Frankfurt while Dr. Elkins conducted other research with the photo archive. When the university was closed, both visited Cologne and Trier, both of which were Roman settlements with substantial remains and important museums.

Amy Welch (senior, University Scholar) has also been invited to contribute to the research project once the analysis phase begins. Dr. Elkins, Xander, and Amy will present their preliminary findings at the 115th Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Chicago in January 2014. The title of their paper is "Coinage and the Communication of Power in the Reign of Nerva, 96-98 CE."


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