Ancient coins offer clues to medieval society

Ancient coins offer clues to medieval society

The Norwegian economic system in the Middle Ages it was more sophisticated than previously thought. This claim is based on research in the circulation of coins in Norwegian society between the years 1050 and 1320. In this period, the use of coins was widespread and frequent, according to historian Svein Gullbekk of the University of Oslo. Your study "The speed of circulation of Norwegian coins between 1050 and 1320«, Was recently published in a History magazine.

This debate has been going on for 10-15 years”Says Svein Gullbekk. "The main question is whether the goods were paid for with coins or raw materials”.

Norwegian medieval coins

The answer to that question goes further than one might think. The circulation of coins in medieval society says something about the economic system and if it was possible for the national government organize, carry out and maintain a system based on a fixed currency.

The number of hands.

Tens of thousands of medieval Norwegian coins were found in the past decades in various parts of the country. Applying a simple method, Svein Gullbekk has used these treasures to understand the speed of money circulationfrom medieval Norway.

The trick is in the body of metallic coins, a mixture of copper and silver that makes them much less resistant than current coins. The medieval coins were worn by daily use and by studying the degree of wear, Gullbekk was able to make rough estimates of how many hands have they passed through in their life.

Gullbekk explains that if it were known the exact time period in which the coins were used, one can make a well-informed estimate about the speed of movement in the years when it was used as a currency.

I think it is really interesting that through a simple methodology we obtain this valuable information about the daily life of medieval society”Says Gullbekk.

From commodities to currencies.

The minted coins was introduced in Norway in the 11th century. It was gradually integrated into the regular trade and was gradually replacing goods and materials. To what extent this transition had come to Norway in the Middle Ages, has been the subject of debate among historians for years, but Gullbekk says that he has found coins from the 1050s and 1320s that were so worn that he was convinced that they were used much earlier than previously thought.

Gullbekk says that the assumption in the study was that the circulation of the coins was about 10 times a year, but now he thinks that is a very prudent estimate.

It is obvious that some of the coins we found were used many, many times a year. When you have a coin that is made mostly of copper with only a little silver and is worn evenly, that means it hasn't been used 100 times in a 10-year period, but hundreds of times.”.

With the coins comes the change.

An analysis of 45,000 medieval Norwegian coins shows that 1200 coins circulated more than those of previous centuries. Gullbekk also found that currencies in urban communities were more worn, suggesting that they had a less significant role in rural areas, although they were also necessary.

People needed coins to pay rent on land, pay taxes, or make donations to the Church. Therefore, it was necessary for farmers and other workers to exchange some of the goods they produced with coins, which resulted in a progressive development of trade and, ultimately, of society as a whole.

The extent of this transition and how quickly it occurred are still debated, and Gullbekk says he sees no end close to it. However, a further step has been taken thanks to the wear and tear of the medieval coins.

With a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was a child I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.


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