WHY WOULD HOARDS OF HACK SILVER OCCUR IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES? REMARKS ON WORKS BY JACEK KOWALEWSKI AND PRZEMYSLAW URBANCZYK
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The early Middle Ages are a time of extremely intensive metal deposition in the history of the Baltic zone and large amounts of considerably broken up silver were hidden at that time. Different factors have been pointed out that might have affected the burying of such hoards, as well as the considerable fragmentation of coins and ornaments. The prevailing approaches are those that emphasize economic, political, military and - last but not least - symbolic (cult) causes.The author questions interpretations proposed by Jacek Kowalewski and Przemyslaw Urbanczyk. The first one analyzed early medieval hoards according to their burial place. In his opinion most early medieval hoards had been hidden with no intention to retrieve them again. The very act of burying silver was allegedly characterized by symbolic references. The foregoing being true in part, one should, however, point out that this does not mean that silver did not perform the function of a monetary circulation means. Przemyslaw Urbanczyk maintains that the circulation of silver and the custom of the deposition of property was supposedly determined almost exclusively by faith, magic and symbolic sphere. In order to maintain it, one's goods had to be spent or distributed, not invested or accumulated to be multiplied. The foregoing is evidenced by tiny incisions upon the silver (pecks) which contradictory to many views do not seem to be remnants of metal testing. However, the ritual interpretation of pecks, once it has been accepted, does not mean that fragmentation of silver was of such a character, or - in consequence - that silver, as it was, did not perform monetary functions. Comparative studies that have been carried out as well as the scope of written and archaeological sources pertaining to the issue provide us with a rather clear image. The fragmentation of silver items was done chiefly for economic purposes: the goal was to obtain a low value monetary unit. Whether such a fragmented mass was accepted by the piece or by the weight, still remains unknown. The needs for manifestation were another important causa why silver - mainly ornaments - was being damaged. However, the custom to incise or pierce coins through was an almost exclusively magic operation. As far as the causes why metal was hidden are concerned, certainly the most common of them are those of economic (accumulation and storage of goods), military (property being secured against robbery, temporarily hidden loot, tributes) and cultic character (religious offerings, signs of prestige). All of them must have been significant and mutually co-existing. Attempts to separate them and find a single predominating cause are definitely bound for failure.(The English version of the abstracted paper is available in proceedings of the XIIIth International Numismatic Congress held in Madrid in 2003).
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