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  • Open Access
  • Doctoral thesis
  • Publikationer från Stockholms universitet
  • Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage

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  • Open Access English
    Authors: 
    Audy, Florent;
    Publisher: Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur
    Country: Sweden

    The use of coins as pendants is a common practice in the Scandinavian Viking Age (c. AD 800–1140). About three per cent of the coins circulating in Scandinavia show signs of having been adapted for suspension, either with a small hole or a loop. Modifying coins in this way changes the nature of the object. The pierced and looped coins move from having an economic function to having a display and symbolic function, at least temporarily. After being long neglected by both archaeologists and numismatists, the reuse of coins as pendants has started to receive attention in recent years. This arises mainly from a desire to approach coins from perspectives other than purely economic ones. Coins, like any other archaeological object, are part of material culture. It is therefore also relevant and necessary to investigate their social and cultural significance. The aim of this thesis is to understand why coins were adapted for suspension and worn as personal ornaments in Viking-Age Scandinavia. Unlike most ornaments of the time, the production of which necessarily involved craft specialists, the Viking-Age coin-pendants could be produced directly by their owners. Their study can thus provide unique insights into how the coins of which they are made, and the messages they carry, were perceived by those using them. What made coins so meaningful that they were often turned into pendants? The point of departure adopted here is the object, the ‘coin-pendant’ itself, but this object does not exist in a vacuum. Particular attention is paid to the different contexts that the coin-pendants have navigated throughout their lives, such as minting, use as currency or use as ornament. This contextual approach is combined with a semiotic one, so as to better understand how the meaning of the object was constructed. The relationship between coin-pendants and owners of coin-pendants can be explored by investigating several processes that reflect the owners’ intentions, such as coin selection, modification for suspension, orientation of the motives and combination with other ornaments. These processes allow us to understand how the coin-pendants were valued by those using them. However, it is not possible to fully understand this relationship without putting it into perspective. This means studying: (1) the wider social, economic, cultural and religious framework in which the practice of reusing coins as pendants is situated; (2) the objects with which the coin-pendants are metaphorically associated. The material forming the basis for this study is both archaeological and numismatic. It consists of two main components: 134 Scandinavian graves containing coin-pendants and a random sample of 80 Scandinavian hoards. The hoard material is primarily intended for quantitative purposes while the grave catalogue is primarily intended for qualitative purposes. The importance of studying the Viking-Age coin-pendants both in graves and in hoards cannot be overemphasised. None of these contexts directly reflects the reality of the practice. The study shows that the practice of using coins as pendants was very diverse and could be adapted to individual tastes. Within this diversity, however, a common denominator emerges: the object ‘coin’. It is clear that there was something special about coins in Viking-Age Scandinavia and that the meaning of the coin-pendants was largely derived from the ideas with which coins were associated.

  • Open Access Norwegian
    Authors: 
    Eikje Ramberg, Linn;
    Publisher: Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur
    Country: Sweden

    The kings of Norway issued coins on a regular basis starting in the mid-11th century, and probably conducted renovatio monetae whenever a new king came to power. As a privilege of bona regalia, the king could use coin production to serve his own interests. Economic factors are usually the main focus of discussions on coinage, but there were also political, religious and cultural dimensions that must have been important both for the production of coins and in the choice of motives, form and style. From the outset, manipulation of the coinage is visible in the debasement of silver content, followed by a reduction in weight to re-establish the silver level. In the 12th century, the weights continued to drop and single-faced coins and bracteates became the standard; only a few biface coins are known. These small coins and bracteates from the 12th century carry little or no information concerning issuer, date or place of production. This lack of information has resulted in a gap in our knowledge about the role of these coins in medieval society in Norway. This role was dependent both on the intentions of the producer and on how the coins were perceived by the people, and their will to use them in certain ways. What were the reasons behind issuing the smallest coins ever produced in coin history, and what impact did this dramatic reduction in weight have on the understanding and use of the coin? To advance the discussion it has been vital to establish new knowledge about chronology, coin-issuing authority and mints. These areas have been addressed through two analyses using numismatic and archaeological methods. The results of the initial analyses are combined with an investigation of the size of the coin production and a study of archaeological contexts, in order to reveal how, where and when the bracteates were used. The theoretical approach to understanding the role of coins is inspired by theories in anthropology and sociology about the many ways in which money can be incorporated in a society, emphasising the complex social component of coins in contrast to the traditional economic emphasis on their neutral qualities as a means of exchange. Central to this are the concepts behind formalism and substantivist and post-substantivist theory. The study concludes with a discussion that explores what can be said about economy and economic systems based on the 12th-century Norwegian coins.

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