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The importance of numismatics to the study of African history

Numismatics is the study of ancient coins and mediums of exchange to be able to reconstruct the history of the people of an era that had existed in the past.

Helps To determine the level of trade
The presence of ancient coins in a particular region indicates that there must have been in existence, in the past, a highly organized system of trade in the society. Numismatists use the information obtained from the study of the ancient coin to conclude how highly developed the system of exchange may have been in the past. This makes numismatics a very important tool for the study of African history.

A means of communication
The Kings and the Emperors of the ancient times used coins as a means of communicating personal and official messages to their subjects and the world around them, using the images and the texts on the coins. The images and the coins found on the ancient coins discovered in Africa may therefore convey information to the historian which can be of use to the reconstruction, writing and study of African history.

Confirmation of oral traditions
Numismatics is also important to the study of African history because it helps to confirm the oral tradition that may have been in circulation in the society. The conclusions that numismatists come to after the study of ancient coins can help to confirm whatever oral tradition that may have been circulating or conversely, consign it to the dustbin as being rubbish.

Determines the height of an ancient civilization
Numismatics helps to determine the height to which an ancient civilization had risen in the past. It is able to for example, tell which ancient civilizations had interacted with which in the past, mostly through trade.

Determines the economic life of the people
The study of ancient coins helps the numismatists to have great insights into the economic life of the ancient people under their study. This is so because the materials used in making the ancient coins makes them almost indefinitely durable, so whatever information that may have been left on the coins remains almost intact. This is another reason why numismatics is important to the study of African history.

Proof that there was history before the European came to Africa
Numismatics is important to the study of African history because it helps to prove that there was a history of the Africans long before the European first set his foot on the African soil. Through the combination of other tools, including numismatics, it has been proven that there was a highly developed civilization such as that of the Egyptians and the people of Axum in Africa long before they heard or had any contact with the European.

Not entirely reliable
One of the disadvantages of using numismatics for the study of African history is that it is not entirely reliable. The conclusions the numismatists arrive at after the study of ancient coins may not be absolute. The simple reason is that the numismatists are, after all, human and therefore prone to distortions and not getting it entirely right. It is possible for them to arrive at the wrong conclusions.

Damaged coins
Another disadvantage of numismatics is that the coins may have been greatly damaged through wear and tear. It is possible for some of the excavated coins to be badly damaged. If such coins are not restored close to their original status, it is possible for the numismatists to arrive at the wrong conclusions.

Inability to decipher some ancient languages
In spite of the advancement in knowledge and technology, there are some ancient languages that have still not been deciphered. This has become a hindrance to the numismatists in the sense that such writings on some ancient coins cannot be read and there difficult to arrive at definite conclusions about the people and their era.

Cannot be used in isolation
Another disadvantage of the use of numismatics is that it cannot be exclusively used in the study of African history. If it is done, the results may not be conclusive. It has to be used in conjunction with other known methods.

1. Outline six ways in which numismatics is important to the study of African history.

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