Why dirhams first reached Russia : the role of Arab-Khazar relations in the development of the earliest islamic trade with Eastern Europe

  • This study is part of a larger work whose aim is to examine the historical significance of the tens of thousands of Islamic silver coins or dirhams which appeared in Eastern Europe during the pre-Mongol era. The first part of this work explored the questions of when and how dirhams first reached European Russia. Very briefly, this initial study led to the following conclusions: 1. Dirhams first reached Eastern Europe about 800 A.D., as R. Fasmer (Vasmer) argued a half-century ago. 2. The earliest dirham hoards from Eastern Europe are almost identical in composition with contemporaneous Near Eastern hoards (both contain a predominance of 'Abbasid coins struck after 769 in Iraq and North Africa). This suggests that the earliest Eastern-European hoards were composed from the Near-Eastern coin stock of the time. 3. The earliest dirham hoards from Eastern Europe are completely different in composition from the contemporaneous hoards found in Transoxiana indicating that the earliest dirhams to reach Eastern Europe did not come via Central Asia. 4. An analysis of the early Caucasian dirham hoards revealed that the composition of some of these hoards differs from that of Eastern-European and Near-Eastern hoards in that the Caucasian hoards contain a higher percentage of dirhams from South-Caucasian mints and a lesser percentage of coins from North-African mints. This suggests that these hoards were composed of dirhams imported from the Near East which had circulated in the Southern Caucasus for some time before being deposited. 5. Other early dirham hoards from the Caucasus, however, are very similar in composition to contemporaneous Near-Eastern and Eastern-European dirham hoards. This suggests that these hoards were composed of coins which were apparently being transported to Eastern Europe from the Near East and were buried accidentally while in route through the Caucasus. In short, the first segment of this research concluded that dirhams began to reach Eastern Europe around the year 800 and that they were imported by the Caucasus or Caspian route from the Near East. The purpose of this study is to investigate the historical circumstances which would explain why dirhams were first brought by the Caucasus or Caspian route to Eastern Europe in the early ninth century. It is pertinent to note that, to the best of my knowledge"no one has yet addressed this fundamental question in any depth. Consequently, in discussing this issue, it is not our intention to claim that the thesis which will be put forward is irrefutable or that no other thesis could explain the available data. Rather, the objective is to raise the question of why dirhams first reached Eastern Europe around 800 A.D. by the Caucasus-Caspian route and to suggest a possible solution. This study should thus be considered as the presentation of a working hypothesis which will hopefully inspire others to examine a basic question of medieval Eurasian history which has been too long ignored.

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Author:Thomas S. Noonan
Parent Title (Latin):Archivum Eurasiae medii aevi
Place of publication:Wiesbaden
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2010/05/06
Year of first Publication:1984
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2010/05/06
Page Number:67
First Page:151
Last Page:282
Signatur: Zs 17100
Dewey Decimal Classification:9 Geschichte und Geografie / 93 Geschichte des Altertums (bis ca. 499), Archäologie / 930 Geschichte des Altertums bis ca. 499, Archäologie
Licence (German):License LogoArchivex. zur Lesesaalplatznutzung § 52b UrhG