IMAGMA: Imagines Maiestatis. Barbarian coins, elite identities and the Birth of Europe

IMAGMA is a DFG/NCN Beethoven project , which is a Polish-German cooperation. The team consists of colleagues from Warsaw, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, and Schleswig.

Interaction between Rome and the barbarians who lived to the north of the Empire was to shape the face of European society after the fall of the Roman Empire in West. The contacts between the two worlds were a significant contributory factor in the formation of the new elites who were subsequently to settle in the territory of the old Empire and form the kingdoms of medieval Europe. In order to appreciate fully this transformation, we need to understand how and why the new elites were formed, and this can best be achieved through the symbols that they employed and the objects on which these were represented.

IMAGMA will investigate a specific, exemplary aspect of this fundamental, defining transition. It will access a previously neglected group of material: imitations of Roman coins produced by the developing elites right across the Barbaricum north of the Roman frontier, and used by them to demonstrate their status. These provide an unparalleled microcosm of this cultural meeting, a unique synthesis of Roman and indigenous societies. Furthermore, coins ofter particularly rich potential, reflecting a wider range of functions and intentions, from ofticial production to private usage, from economic to prestige roles, than almost any other class of material culture.

IMAGMA analyses this representational art as a medium of expression of new social identities that resulted from the contacts between Rome and the barbarians. It considers the transfer of know-how, ideas and technology, the role of iconography, self-representation of elites and coins as symbols of power. A major role will be played by scientific metal and material analysis using state of the art technologies. IMAGMA will thus provide a significant contribution to understanding how Europe came into being after the collapse of the world of Antiquity, placing it in a long-term historical perspective. It will be conducted as an integrated multidisciplinary research programme involving the participation of (art and economic) historians, archaeologists, numismatists and material scientists, drawing on new theoretical approaches on the origins and function of coinage from the field of historical anthropology.

IMAGMA will provide innovative, meaningful research from a joint German-Polish team that has a long-standing history of successful work in the field.

Learn more about the project, the team, cooperations, current activities and news on


Prof. Dr. Sabine Klein (Teilprojekt Analytik)


Prof. Dr. Aleksander Bursche, University of Warsaw, Poland

Dr. David Wigg-Wolf, Römisch-Germanische Kommission des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Frankfurt a.M.


University of Warsaw, Poland

Römisch-Germanische Kommission des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Frankfurt a.M.


Institute of Applied Physics, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine


DFG/NCN Beethoven. German funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft(2009-2014)


ab 2017