Cleaning Roman coins

Eighth grader Kinley Harrison carefully works with a needle to pull up some dirt on her coin. She quickly learned too much pressure would scratch it, so alternated between the needle and toothpick on her table. 

THOMASVILLE- Eighth grade students at the Scholars Academy had a unique opportunity this week as they cleaned ancient Roman coins that were found in the Middle East. 

Teacher Charlie Gammel explained the coins are part of a larger project in his Latin class, who have been learning about the various Roman Empires during which the coins could have been used. 

Since the arrival of the coins, the class has been instructed on the best techniques to clean ancient artifacts. They are currently using distilled water, olive oil, a toothpick and baking soda. 

“They are being a little more aggressive on some of the really bad coins,” Gammel shared. “For the most part, it’s just distilled water and olive oil, though.” 

Once the coin is clean enough, students can place it under a specialized coin microscope. The microscope magnifies specialized markings and engravings that are naked to the human eye. The markings allow the students to then conduct further research and learn what Roman Emperor the coins may have been under. 

Gammel said the class has already identified one coin, which had a distinct wolf marking on it. They then located an identical coin on Etsy, which is currently valued at over $200. 

However, Gammel said the class has no intentions of selling their coins, as they each belong to a student now. 

“It can be really difficult to make anything of the coins, but if they are able to get a letter or a head on the coin, it can give us something to go off of,” Gammel said. 

Gammel explained the class is currently utilizing a database to help them identify, but some of the coins are impossible to gather further details on. 

Gammel said he had great aspirations when he first started the project ten years ago, but quickly learned some coins are just too far gone to decipher. 

He hasn’t let the project go to waste, though. He still has the students do their best to clean the coins, while also drawing sketches and conducting their own research on its origin. 

For many students, this is one of the most interesting projects they have been a part of. 

Abigale Welch is one of those students. 

Welch has been working to identify her coin and has been able to determine Romulus and Remus are on one side. 

“Romulus and Remus are who founded Rome,” she explained. “There’s also two babies on the coin, which the story goes, as babies they (Romulus and Remus) were raised by wolves.” 

The other side of Welch’s coin has only shown letters so far, but she isn’t deterred. 

“This is one of my favorite classes,” she said. “This is a really cool project. I went home and told my parents about it first thing after I got home from dance. It’s just so interesting because of how old the coins are.” 

Jaya Sirmans has also been able to identify part of her coin. 

“The back of the coin is supposed to be a soldier killing their horse, but I haven’t been able to tell who was ruling during that time,” Sirmans said. 

Sirmans said she has also enjoyed the project and believes it to be one of her favorites throughout her time at Scholars Academy. 

The students will continue to work on uncovering the coins in the coming weeks, before taking them home for safe keeping. 

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