Valentine’s day quiz: What is the symbol on this ancient Cyrenian coin?
Answer: It’s the seed of the silphion plantâ€”a classical birth control remedy.
Looks like a heart, you say? Well, I think so too. And some people think that this is where the heart shape came from.
(Silphionâ€”silphium to the Romansâ€”was probably a species of giant fennel (Ferula) native to the North African coast. Pliny declared it extinct from overharvesting, but not all the ancient writers agreed on that point. Some people think it may have been giant Tangier fennel (Ferula tingitana), which is not extinct.)