South-Sea Annuities certificate

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Room 68: Money 

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Museum number: 1981,0616.4, 13, 17, 21, 59, 64, 66-7

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Crusader-cut gold offering pieces

Levant, AD 1167

Gold fragments with designs based on cut coins. Made in Kingdom of Jerusalem, about 1167–1200.

Coinage in the Crusader states often fused native and foreign styles and materials. Before the First Crusade (1096-99) coins in the Islamic eastern Mediterranean were usually gold or copper. Once the Crusaders had established the Principality of Antioch, County of Edessa and Kingdom of Jerusalem, they issued coins, and these were largely modelled on the local currency, rather than the typical Frankish tradition of silver coinage.

From the early twelfth century gold dinars imitating those of the Fatimid caliph al-Amir were struck in Jerusalem and used as the high value coin for trade and high-status payments. In contemporary documents they are known as bezants, a term derived from the gold coins of the Byzantine Empire. An intriguing group of cut fragments hint at another use for gold coins during this period.

This selection was part of a group of 79 cut fragments said to have been found near Sidon in the Kingdom of Jerusalem (modern-day Lebanon) and excavations at Caesarea and Imwas have also yielded hoards of cut coins. These take the form of cut fragments of Islamic coins as well as specially made fragmentary pieces, never intended to circulate as coins.

Some of these fragments have been shown to be made from strips of metal stamped with a coin-like design and then cut into smaller pieces with partial legends suggesting they were made in the reigns of Baldwin and Amaury. It is possible, but by no means certain, that they were intended to be bought by pilgrims to offer at the Holy places associated with Christ.

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D.M. Metcalf, Coins of the Crusades and the Latin East, Royal Numismatic Society, London, 1995 (second edition), 107-116

AE.M. Besly, 'Two new parcels of Crusader gold fragments', Coin Hoards 7, Royal Numismatic Society, London, 1985, 421-32.