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2004 | 48 | 2(178) | 167-180

Article title

WHO HID THE HOARDS OF DEPRECIATED SILVER AND WHY? (polemics with criticism by Mateusz Bogucki and Stanislaw Suchodolski)


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The paper is a polemic with M. Bogucki's and S Suchodolski's critical remarks concerning the author's views on the origin of silver objects in the Baltic zone. He claims that in the study of the pre-state communities it is difficult to separate the sphere of economic activities from symbolic and magic behaviour. Therefore it is not justified to concentrate merely on problems of the 'property', 'market', 'trading', 'profit', and 'money' as there is a lack of a definite vision of communities that left the 'hoards'. Fragmentation of silver objects and deposition of fragments of no functional properties is the constant argument of those who argue for universal penetration of market mechanisms in communities not organized in stable territorial states. In simpler words: they maintain that silver fragmentation is material proof of the functioning of a market on which weighed silver gave way to small monetary units. Extremely accurate metal weighing would have been justified only if there had been precisely defined weight standards to be precisely balanced. So far search for such weighing systems has yielded no results. Examples of erroneous or exaggerated metrological interpretations of the past phenomena must warn those who at all costs search for measurable axioms. Attempts to specify the measures that were in force in prehistoric building engineering, smithery, or commercial exchange, provide an illusion of the higher 'scientific' character of discussion based upon practical rationalism and excluding considerations of the mentality of people who lived within a symbolic–magic reality that is difficult to understand. Due to this obsessional 'economising' of the social and cultural context of the finds of metal scrap, discussion is practically impossible, for alternative suggestions bounce from a concrete wall. Questioning the hypotheses based on economic rationalism premises does not mean that they should totally give way to a hypothesis that will focus merely on non–economic behaviours. Homo symbolicus and homo oeconomicus were two complementary spheres of human mentality in the early Middle Ages and all the epochs to follow.








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  • P. Urbanczyk, Instytut Archeologii i Etnologii PAN, al. Solidarnosci 105, 00-140 Warszawa, Poland


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