Hacksilver

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Hacksilver from the medieval period, Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Hamburg, Germany.
The mixed Cuerdale Hoard also contains 8,600 coins, as well as these ingots and pieces of jewellery and plate.
Viking age settlement, eighth to eleventh centuries; trade and raid routes are marked green.

Hacksilver, or Hack-silver, is fragments of cut and bent silver items treated as bullion, either for ease of carrying before melting down for re-use, or simply used as currency by weight. It was common among the Norsemen or Vikings, as a result of both their raiding and trade. The name of the ruble, the basic unit of modern Russian currency, is derived from the Russian verb рубить (rubit), meaning "to chop", from the practice of the Rus, described by Ahmad ibn Fadlan visiting the Volga Vikings in 922. An example of the related Viking weighing scale with weights was found on the Isle of Gigha.[1] Hacksilver may be derived from silver tableware, Roman or Byzantine, church plate and silver objects such as reliquaries or book-covers, and jewellery from a range of areas. Hoards may typically include a mixture of hacksilver, coins, ingots and complete small pieces of jewellery.

Hoards of hacksilver are also well known in pre-coinage antiquity, in Near Eastern contexts. The Cisjordan Corpus (c.1200-586 BC) is the largest identified concentration of such hoards, and provides key evidence for the Phoenician and wider Near Eastern roots of the development and proliferation of the earliest silver coinages in the Greek world and western tradition. The widespread adoption of Greek silver coinages by c.480 BC appears to have developed first out of cooperative relations between Greeks and Phoenicians, then partly as a competitive, culturally consolidating response to earlier Phoenician expansion and domination of silver trade, which had been conducted with hacksilver.[2] The same hacksilver hoards have provided the first recognized provenance-evidence for far-reaching contact between Europe and Asia related to the prehistoric trafficking of metals.[3][4]

Examples[edit]

  • The 4th or 5th century hoard of Traprain Law (Traprain Treasure) consists of four silver coins and over 53 pounds of sliced-up Late Roman silver tableware, much of it of very high quality. Whether this was handed over by Romans to the Pictish occupants of the site, or the products of raids on Roman Britain, is unclear.
  • The Skaill Hoard, the largest Viking Age silver hoard found in Scotland, consists of over 100 items, including jewelry, a few coins and assorted hacksilver. The hoard, dated to between 950 and 970, was found in Skaill, Sandwick, Orkney, in 1858.[6][7][8]

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Viking weights". University of Glasgow. 
  2. ^ Chistine M. Thompson 2011: 'Silver in the age of iron: an overview', in C. Giardino (ed.) Archeometallurgia: dalla conoscenza alla fruizione. Atti del convegno Cavallino, Lecce, 22-25/05/2006 Bari: Edipuglia. 121-32.
  3. ^ Thompson, C.M; Skaggs, S. (2013). "King Solomon's Silver? Southern Phoenician Hacksilber Hoards and the Location of Tarshish". Internet Archaeology 35. doi:10.11141/ia.35.6. 
  4. ^ Balmuth, M.S. and Thompson, C.M. 2000, 'Hacksilber: recent approaches to the study of hoards of uncoined silver', in B. Klengel and B. Weisser (eds) Acts of the XIIth International Numismatic Congress, 9-13th September, Berlin, 1997 = XII. Internationaler Numismatischer Kongress, Akten Berlin. 159-69.
  5. ^ "BBC - History - Ancient History in depth: The Cuerdale Hoard". 
  6. ^ "National Museums of Scotland - Hacksilver". 
  7. ^ "Orkneyjar - The Skaill Viking Hoard in Sandwick, Orkney.". 
  8. ^ Graham-Campbell, J A (1975–76). "The Viking-age silver and gold hoards of Scandinavian character from Scotland" (PDF). Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 107: 114–135.