early medieval coin use

older idea is that cash fell out of use in former Roman West, particularly in northern Francia.

transactions assumed to be done by barter

high value transactions done by gold solidi and tremissi, but too valuable for everyday transactions

Even silver pennies and Carolingian deniers too high a value for ordinary transaction - say $50 - continuing assumption of cashless economy

Alessia Rovelli has looked at coin finds, primarily at Lombard and Gothic sites in Italy, although some in Francia and in east England (eg Ipswich) and found reuse of late Roman bronze issues and some byzantine issues in Italy and Francia and some use of low value silver coins in italy suggesting cash transactions were contuing - it was more that the successor states did not issue low value coins.

supporting evidence in that in C6 Rome, pigs were brought in and slaughtered for sale (implication of large subbish assemblages in forum) while by C9 rubbish assemblages make it look as if more goat was eaten and lack of systematic slaughter evidence suggests animals killed ad hoc at home

So what we have is an informal everyday currency for normal transactions and a special high value prestige currency for major transactions including donations to the church (ghost of late Roman requirement for certain taxes to be rendered in gold?)

Observe similar phenomenon in Byzantium where gold solidi were minted for special transactions but most everyday transactions carried out using bronze nummi

  • solidi were restricted to use in the empire but some inevitably leaked out for use elsewhere
  • early islamic gold dinars were patterned on solidi
  • frankish solidii and tremissis tied to solidus
    • solidii functioned as a high value form of portable wealth that were easy to count as being of guaranteed value (analogy US $100 bills or European €200 and €500 notes - all too valuable for ordinary transactions)
    • solidii found on trading routes as evidence of trade

modern analogies

  • kip and USD in Laos - kip used for all run of the mill transactions but all high value transactions in USD
  • kurdistan and persistence of use of swiss dinar after gulf war 1
  • Somali shilling and the use of USD for big transactions

also perhaps survival of Lebanese pound despite effective collapse of the state during the civil war

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