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2 new Veni-grants: investigating malaria in the Middle Ages and coinage in Rome

Two researchers at the Faculty of Archaeology have received a Veni award from the Netherlands Organisation for Academic Research (NWO). This award offers promising young researchers the opportunity to further develop their ideas for a period of three years.

The emergence of coinage as money in the Roman world

Marleen Termeer received the Veni grant for her project titled: Coining Roman rule? The emergence of coinage as money in the Roman world (4th-3rd c. BC).

Coinage in the Roman world emerged in the context of Rome’s first large-scale expansion on the Italian peninsula (4th-3rd c. BC). The adoption of coinage by the Romans has long been taken for granted as a kind of “natural” development. But how did coinage as a form of money first come to be accepted, and how was it used? Was it a widely circulating, state-authorized currency from the start, or was it more like the Bitcoin – unrelated to the state and limited in use? In this project, Marleen Termeer will investigate how the value of coins was created in different parts of the Italian peninsula through various strategies and practices of coin production and use.

This will involve the collection of data about coin production, the geographical distribution of various coin types throughout the Italian peninsula, and the archaeological contexts in which coins appear. Moreover, her interpretation of these data will be informed by economic anthropological theories that view value as a social construct. In this way, she wants to shed new light on the relation between coinage and the development of the Roman state in a period that Rome first started to conquer the Mediterranean.

Marleen Termeer studying coins during fieldwork.
Rachel Schats studying skeletal remains.

Impact of malaria in the medieval period

Rachel Schats received the Veni grant for her project titled: Mapping Medieval Malaria. A multidisciplinary analysis of the distribution and impact of malaria in the Netherlands.

This project will study the distribution and impact of a previously neglected, yet potentially influential medieval disease in the Netherlands: malaria. Malaria is known to have had—and still has—a massive impact on health. While it is very likely that this disease was present in the medieval period as well, the paucity of historical information concerning disease in this period means that malaria is only rarely included in discussions on medieval health, hampering our interpretations of past societies.

Gaining a better understanding of malaria in this period is therefore essential. This project will do so through the application of an innovative approach that combines palaeopathological data from the skeletal remains of more than 5,000 medieval individuals and a newly developed biomolecular method to detect the presence of malaria in human bone. This multidisciplinary strategy will allow for the identification of malarial regions in the medieval Netherlands. Subsequently, by combining these results with contextual biological and archaeological data, the social, economic, and epidemiological ramifications of malaria on medieval society will be assessed.

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