(Click image to enlarge)
1982.2.291 Athenian “Owl” Coin, Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Coin That Connected a World, Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East
A Museum PerspectiveFeaturing the head of Athena on its front and an owl on its back, this ancient coin is a silver tetradrachm dating from 449–413 BCE, minted in Athens. It is one of the most recognized coins of the ancient Greek world, widely used throughout the Mediterranean region, and even copied by non-Greek states. Standardized coinage, the first true money, originated in the region around modern-day Turkey sometime before the seventh century BCE. It was an innovation that literally changed the world. Money offered a standard, commonly understood medium for communicating value that allowed for trade and exchange among dissimilar peoples and over great distances. In this way, early money helped to connect peoples of different languages and cultures into an expansive trading network that not only spanned the Mediterranean region, but gradually reached deep into Africa, Asia, Europe, and ultimately well beyond.