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Vol 04 No. 11 November 1990

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About This File

It took Odysseus 10 years to find his way home, and us only a month, but like the wandering Greek we experienced some memorable adventures along the way.

Athens was the first stop on our itinerary, as Bill Spengler and I set off on our quest in search of the elusive Turkomans. Those who have visited the venerable cradle of democracy will know that it is, above aIl, unpredictable. We arrived amidst a general strike which paralyzed transportation, utilities and services. Trekking up and down the stairwell to our 5th floor hotel room (no electricity for the elevator) toughened us up for the days ahead.

The highlight of our stay in Athens was a visit to, and very cordial reception at, the Athens National Museum. Ms. Mondo Oikonumedes, director of the National Numismatic Collection, was most gracious in showing us the displays as well as making her offices and staff available for our research. Although the collection of Turkoman coins in Athens is understandably limited, we found some valuable information and were able to obtain photographs of some exquisite pieces. We were particularly impressed by the courteous and helpful assistance of Dr. Touratsoglou and Mrs. Pennas, who went out of their way to share time with us.

Travel between Greece and Turkey is not the easiest passage in the civilized world, so we chose to fly to the island of Rhodes and then cross into Turkey by ferry. It turned out to be a real highlight, as the harbor at Rhodes is something not to be missed and the ferry ride was punctuated by rough seas and healthy spray.

We rented a car (?) in Marmaris and drove along the entire coast of southern Turkey, stopping in Alanya and Adana. Along the way we took time to visit the citadels of a Seljuq fort called Yilan Kale (Snake Castle) as well as the impressive Greek/Roman/Byzantine/Armenian city of Anazarbos. We also visited ancient Issos where Alexander met and defeated the forces of Darius.

Our first stop in Turkoman country was at the very ancient site of Edcssa which is now called Sanliurfa. Achance meeting in the bazaar with Mr. Kadri Cetiner, local director of tourism, led us to the recently inaugurated museum of archaeology which features a multitude of finds from the nearby site of Harran. The collection reportedly includes over 37,000 coins, however they were "unavailable" for us to see except for some recent stray finds which had not been accessioned.

Diyarbakir, the ancient Amid, was a remarkable site and deserved more time than we could spare. In our four days there we saw an impressive mix of cultures and began to realize how important this city is, and was, as a crossroad between the East and West. We were disappointed to find the Archaeological Museum closed but managed to arrange an office call with the museum director who also was limited to showing us stray finds in a heterogeneous group (translate that as junk in a bag). Fortunately, our earlier work in major western museums had provided a comprehensive catalog of types and our current trip was more historical ill perspective. At Malatya, the ancient home of the Danishmendid rulers, we found a few coins on display, but the lack of attribution, orderly arrangement, or descriptive information rendered the display next to useless. At Kayseri, we found a nice display of attributed Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins, but all of the Islamic coins were in another museum which was closed for renovation. It is peculiar how much of the Turkish museum system is "under renovation". The trip between these sites was spectacular and stops at out of the way places like Harput (the ancient Khartpirt) and Mardin were very rewarding.

At Istanbul, although the archaeological museum was also undergoing restoration, we were very warmly received by Dr. LG. Paksoy, the head numismatist. The numismatic displays, which have been closed to the general public for the past twenty years, were very impressive and we were most fortunate to have been able to examine them through the courtesy of Dr. Paksoy and his associates. We were also cordially received by Ms. Shanur Aydin, curator of the Yapi V Credi Bank Museum in Istanbul. The bank possesses one of the world's finest collections of Turkoman coinage.

After a pleasant five days in Istanbul, we flew to London for the week-long activities associated with COINEX, the British Numismatic Trade Association annual show. The events of that week are detailed in the "Art and the Market" section of this issue.

The opportunity to visit these sites in eastern Turkey was of great value in developing a real sense of who these Turkoman princes were and what kind of lands they ruled. It was a very rewarding numismatic experience and a trip to be remembered for a lifetime.

Finally, a tip of the hat to Steve and Janet for picking up the extra load while I was gone. They did so well I should probably get away more often! Our next event is the New York International see you there. Until then, keep the lines of communication open and take the time to share your point of view!




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