Money Talks

Digs & Discoveries May/June 2021

(Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

A small ceramic jar containing four gold coins dating to the tenth century A.D. has been discovered during excavations in Jerusalem’s Western Wall Plaza. In contrast to Europe, the medieval Middle East was a highly monetized society, explains numismatist Robert Kool of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Gold coins called dinars and silver coins called dirhams were exchanged whole or in fractional pieces by members of all walks of life. These four coins, all dinars, date to between the 940s and 970s A.D. Two were minted in Ramla, in what is now Israel, by Abu Qasim al-Ikhshid, a governor who administered the region in the name of the Sunni Abbasid Caliphate based in Baghdad. The others were minted in Cairo under the Fatimid Caliphate, North African Shiites who conquered Egypt in A.D. 969. The Fatimids wanted to promote their own brand of Islam and did not accept the Sunni rule of Abbasid Baghdad. “Coins were a platform to disseminate the power and glory of a ruler as the highest secular and religious authority,” says Kool.

  • Artifacts May/June 2021

    Magdalenian Wind Instrument

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    (Courtesy Carole Fritz et al. 2021/CNRS – the French National Centre for Scientific Research)
  • Around the World May/June 2021


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    (Nelson Parker)
  • Digs & Discoveries May/June 2021

    You Are How You Cook

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  • Features May/June 2021

    Last Stand of the Hunter-Gatherers?

    The 11,000-year-old stone circles of Göbekli Tepe in modern Turkey may have been monuments to a vanishing way of life

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    (Vincent J. Musi)