Andrei Gandila received a 2012 Tedder Doctoral Summer Fellowship in support of his project, “Marginal Money: Coins, Frontiers, and Barbarians in Early Byzantium (6th-7th Centuries).” In this project, Gandila explores the significance of the frontier between the Byzantine Empire and neighboring societies during the 6th and 7th centuries in the area of the lower Danube in modern Romania. Gandila argues that we need to redefine the meaning of imperial frontiers, since the region was permeated by cross-border trade, intellectual and cultural exchange. His multidisciplinary approach draws from archaeology, anthropology, and history, with particular focus on the production, exchange, and innovative uses of coins beyond the Eastern Roman frontier.
The study of coins – numismatics – has much to offer attempts to better understand Byzantine-barbarian relations on the Danube frontier. Although coins circulated within the Byzantine Empire primarily as money, coins that traveled beyond the monetary economy of the Empire were often valued for non-economic reasons. They were also prized for the religious symbols that they carried, their intrinsic worth as precious metals, and for the connections to Byzantine culture that they implied. Gandila proposes that their secondary meanings could even be transferred to new objects made from metal reclaimed from Byzantine coins, such as jewelry and weapons.
Unfortunately, few catalogues or descriptions of coins and other metal objects found in the lower Danube region have been published, and recent scholarship is rarely available outside of the Balkan countries, inhibiting the use of numismatic evidence in studies of the lower Danube region. The Tedder Doctoral Summer Fellowship thus supported Gandila’s travel to Romania, where he was able to spend several months conducting research. In particular, he was able to access the substantial archaeological collections and catalogues kept at the National History Museum in Bucharest. He was also able to visit unpublished collections located at local museums and acquire critical publications that are unavailable in the U.S. This research became the basis for two chapters of Gandila’s dissertation as well as a stand-alone chapter, which is the most comprehensive catalogue of Danubian coin finds yet to have been published. Gandila’s research and analysis of Danubian numismatics adds a new dimension to the historical understanding of this place and time as well as the value for considering numismatic evidence in frontier studies.
Following his receipt of the Tedder Family Doctoral Fellowship, Gandila was awarded a year-long doctoral fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks, the premier library in the United States for Byzantine studies. While there, he was able to complete his dissertation and prepare for his defense. He has been appointed to a tenure-track assistant professorship in the Department of History at University of Alabama at Huntsville starting in fall 2013.
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