The Algarve Archaeological Association (AAA) will be presenting two lectures on Tuesday, December 7, in English, by numismatist Dr Aleksandar Brzic. The first lecture will be at 2.30pm at Museu do Traje in São Brás; the second will be at 6pm at the Convento de São José in Lagoa.
The subject is a glittery one for the Christmas season. Aleksandar will be talking about the use of Austrian ducats in jewellery in some regions of the Balkans from c1800-today; his Balkan background provides an interesting angle to this field of science. While the hallmarking of silver and gold jewellery and household objects seems to be quite a common phenomenon among the general public, the fact that some countries hallmarked their gold coinage still raises some eyebrows.
Conventionally, a picture of a monarch or symbols of state on the obverse, and clear denomination and/or date on the reverse of a coin were deemed to be enough of a guarantee to the public that the coin was what it purported to be. However, in some regions, coinage devaluations, incessant changes of ruling powers and general unfamiliarity of the coinage changes and valuations caused the populace to wholly refuse some coinage, whilst elevating others to almost a cult status.
Such was the case in the Balkans in the last three centuries. Local coinage was mostly deemed too risky, while the Austrian ducats obtained and retain a cult-like status even today.
Austrian ducats were clearly dated and research into their use in jewellery provides a very valuable resource for monitoring the economic history of the whole region of the Balkans and has helped to produce a clearer picture of this region and its troubled past.
In a local context, in many ways, the Balkans and Portugal show a surprising number of similarities (population structure, social history, long periods of dictatorship, etc), which gave Aleksandar the idea of undertaking similar research in Portugal. Although the local costume (traje) is well documented, as far as we know, nobody has ever studied the use of coins of any kind in the ethnic jewellery of Portugal. Maybe this lecture will be a springboard for a future project.
Dr Aleksandar Brzic was born in Novi Sad, in what was then Yugoslavia. Since an early age, encouraged by his uncle, he started collecting coins and archaeological artefacts of the region of Vojvodina, roughly an area between the river Danube and the border with Hungary. These were mostly Ottoman coins and small Roman artefacts, both reflecting the past of this region.
He went on to study Physical Chemistry, obtaining a BSc at the University of Novi Sad. In 1981, he emigrated to Vienna and afterwards to Munich, finally living in the Netherlands for 30 years working in IT. Aleksandar retired to Portugal in 2019. During his whole career, he dedicated his free time and resources to what became a serious infatuation with Numismatics and Economic History. He achieved his PhD in Numismatics in 2007.
Non-members are welcome for a €5 admission fee, with money raised by the AAA being used for archaeological grants and speakers. Covid-19 regulations apply.
By JANE ROBERTSON