domingo, 20 de abril de 2014

First Aragonese and Pamplonese emissions.

First Aragonese and Pamplonese emissions.
Translation of part of  an article published in Spanish: “Numismática Medieval de Navarra I. Gaceta Numismática 185; Junio 2013: pp. 25-56” 

According to documents, coins were well known elements before the XIth century, even if the first local issues appeared at the late quarter of this century. Previously, the silver Andalusi coin was normally used (some times by weight). The dirhems, commonly named in christian documents as "argenteos", were found at random in Navarrese settings, also some pieces of the northern christian kingdoms were occasionaly introduced by pilgrims who transited  St. Iacob Route. The hispanic dirhems, as well as the muslims gold dinars (morabetinos), would be used long after local currency was available. The silver and gold coins were introduced by commercial relations and the payment of "parias". Sometimes, although the kingdom had its own currency, in rural areas the exchange of goods was a day to day practice (Fig. 1).

Fig.1.- Treasure of muslims dírhems of San Andrés de Ordoiz (Estella, Navarre, Spain).

Among Sancho Ramirez's coins we can find two different types; the first one presents an obverse where there is a face with a teared eye shape, the hair is resolved using wavy lines, and at the base of the neck there are three dotted lines that represent the beginning of the clothing or mail collar (Fig. 2; Pl. Ib,b’). It is a rather unusual piece, in the reverse it shows a cross on a stand and legend ARAGONENSI in deniers and ARAGONENSIS in obols, being this a coin type  of which few samples are known.

Fig. 2.- Denier and obol of Sancho V Ramírez, with leyend ARAGONENSI(S).
The most common type, according to the terminology used in contemporany documents, called "jaques", shows in the obverse a face looking to the right or left, and in the reverse there is a cross standing on a long pedestal with simetrical side ornaments, this figure has been interpreted as a cruciferous tree.

Even if the most usual legend is ARAGON (figs. 3; Pl. Ic-j), there is also a rare variant with legend MONSON (Fig. 4; Pl. Il) and an other one with legend IACCA (Fig. 5; Pl. Ik). This last coin has been dated from the time when the local privileges were given to Jaca, although this coin was probably minted at a later age, because it is a rude imitation of a tardive emission. These last ones could have been minted between 1076 and 1077. According to the density of ornaments in the reverse, and the variants of the faces, six different kinds with legend “Aragon” have been identified, including several subtypes both deniers and obols (semideniers), the latest ones show a different pattern in the reverse, with a semicircular legend instead of a horizontal one.

Fig. 3- Deniers and obols of Sancho V Ramírez, with leyend ARAGON.
Fig.4.- Denier of Sancho V Ramírez, with leyend MONSON.

Fig. 5.- Denier of Sancho V Ramírez, with leyend IACCA.

The silver proportion in the first issues of Sancho V Ramírez (Pl. Ic, d) is high, the 50 per cent is silver and the rest is copper, during his reign this proportion decreased to a 33.3 % ("cuaternal" denier, this is four silver deniers in 12). The origen of this great amount of silver, needed to produce these important emissions, might have been this metal reservoir obtained through the payments of the "parias", and also through the explotation of the silver mines in Bielsa (Huesca). The gold percentage as traze elements in the silver/copper of these first issues, appears in important amount, from 2.5 to 7.3 parts per thousand, ciphers these, that reach values from 7 to 16 parts per thousand if we only consider the gold concentration exclusively refered to the amount of silver that the coin contain (we presume that the gold would "pollute" the silver but not the copper). These amounts are slightly higher than the ones appeared in later coins, such as Alfonso XI of Leon’s deniers (1188-1230) which have a gold concentration of a maximum of one per thousand. During Sancho V Ramírez’ reign, we can find counterfeit coins, made in copper covered with a layer of a mixture of mercury and silver.

            It remains a gold enigmatic piece, a "mancuso" of Sancho V Ramirez, first described in 1958 by Pio Beltran (Fig. 6; Pl. Ia). We can assume that emissions from gold coins made ​​at this time, would be imitation, in types and weights, the Muslim gold coin in circulation, but it is a coin of similar size to the silver money. Changes the obverse legend, Pio Beltran  interpreted as SANCI  (I) N (OST) RI M (AN) C (USUS), but in reality is "+ SA NCINDIE I", being difficult to interpret the last letters of the legend. This piece, weighing 1.95 grams was offered to the National Archaeological Museum, but Gil Farres (1976) considered it a forgery:.

 “Un supuesto Mancuso, “descubierto” recientemente, y dado a conocer en una revista española es falso… Así consta en el Informe que nos solicitó la superioridad. Esta calificación también se ha incluido en el Rapport de Edad Media que nos encargó la Comisión Internacional de Numismática para el Congreso Internacional de 1973, celebrado en Nueva York. 

            Recently, a second specimen, with the same obverse and reverse dies, has appeared, and we can not certify its authenticity, in the absence of more information.

Fig. 6.- Gold “Mancuso” of Sancho V Ramírez.

The first emissions of the king to be Peter I, were made during his father's reign, such as a result of a granting that could be considered as feudal, and probably also extended to his stepbrother Alfonso, future Alfonso I the "Fighter". These coins are mentioned in documents in the year 1086, but they could have been minted the previous year, when Peter I was named king of Sobrarbe and Ribagorza, these first coins are the scarce types (Fig. 7; Pl. IIa), that after Monzon's conquest in 1089, were minted in bigger amounts taking the name of the village. Either the face and the figure in the reverse are similar to a type of Sancho V Ramírez, minted more frecuently with legend Aragon (Plate I,i) and also with legend Monson (Fig. 8; Pl. IIb). Because of this, the mentioned coins were made at this age (about 1086, the ones with legend Aragon, and in 1089 the ones minted in Monzón).

Recently, in a treasure found in Zafranales (Fraga, Huesca), which contained coins of Sancho V Ramírez, one coin of Peter I with legend PETRVS SANCIVSREX appeared and was probably minted before 1094 (Fig. 9; Pl. IIc).

Fig. 7.- Denier of Pedro I, with leyend PETRVSSANCII/ARAGON.

Fig. 8.- Denier of Pedro I, with leyend PETRVSSANCII/MONSON.

Fig. 9.- Denier of Pedro I, with leyend PETRVSSANCIVSREX/ARAGON.

At the beginning of Peter I’s reign (1094-1104) coins were scarcely issued (Fig. 10; Pl. IId & d') similar in typology to the last "jaqueses" deniers of Sancho V Ramírez. One coin of this characteristics appeared in a treasure of coins of Sancho Ramírez and Alfonso VI. Soon this typology was abandoned and a new one began, showing modifications, both in the design of the royal face (with a typical bun), and in the reverse figure (Fig. 11; Pl. IIe-f). In these abundant emissions (deniers, and obols followed the same typology as deniers). We can find two variants, although typologicaly similar, they show great differences in the silver proportion. The first emission are "ternales", this is, 3 silver deniers in 12 (25% in silver), the next ones, quite similar, are different, because they have a dot in front of the face and two dots or signals in both sides of the reverse cross. This minting (type P-III.2) has got less weight and value, so this reflects an important monetary devaluation in a short period of time, of about 30 years  since the first emissions of Sancho V Ramírez (aproximately 77% taking into account the weight and silver proportion loss).

Fig. 10.- Denier and obol of Pedro I, with leyend PETRVSREX/ARAGON.

Fig. 11.- Denier of Pedro I, with “bun”. Leyend PETRVSREX/ARAGON.

When Alfonso I (1104-1134) reached the crown, an improvement in the coins took place, and then two new types were minted (deniers and obols), the first kind following a model established by Sancho V Ramírez, in whose obverse there is a big cross on a stand and legend "Aragonensis" (figs. 12; Pl. IIIa-d). Coins of this type are commonly found in places such as Monte Cantabria and San Adrian tunnel. The second sort of coins (Fig. 13; Pl. IIIe) followed the model established by Peter I (type P-III), increasing the amount of silver up to 20% and the weight up to 39%. This improvement in Alfonso I's emissions, justifies the frecuent reference in documents to these coins as "moneta nova". On the contrary, between 1109 and 1114, Alfonso I minted in Toledo, some deniers with low silver percentage, in whose obverse there is a face with no ornaments and legend ANFVSREX, and in the reverse, there is a cross with stars in the opposite cuadrants (between the cross arms) and legend TOLECTI at the beginning and later TOLLETA. These coins, named "pepiones" were originally minted by Alfonso I "the Fighter", keeping the same typology and low silver proportion for over a century and a half. There are other pieces attributed to Alfonso I produced in Castillian mints that sometimes lacked in minting mark or legend, fact this, that often made their attibution a bit uncertain, despite several proposals made in the 50's.

Fig. 12.- Deniers and obol of Alfonso I, with leyend ARAGONENSIS.
Fig. 13.- Denier and obol of Alfonso I, with leyend ARAGON.

The discovery of a type of denier in the Zafranales treasure (Pl. IIIa), may make us think that also Alfonso could have minted during his brother's, Peter I,  reign, as the last one did during their father Sancho Ramírez' life. Alfonso's early emissions, that appear in royal documents since 1096 could be the coins of the type of Zafranales,  this could explain the absence of this monetary type in Peter I's emissions.

Coins of the Aragonese dinasty are know from ancient times, the jaquese deniers of Sancho V Ramírez were drawn and commented, in the XVIIth century, by Lastanosa (1681) and Moret (1665). However, the first attributed both the coins to the Pamplonese king Sancho Abarca. Heiss described the piece with legend IACCA (Fig. 5; Plate. I-k) and three different types of deniers and obols, with legend ARAGON. San Pío y Ansón (1926), described 38 deniers, among which the type with legend ARAGONENSI, (whose obol has been recently published), and four different sorts of obols. Among the pieces preserved in private and public collections, is highly remarkable the great variety of dies. With reference to Peter I's coins, we can distinguish the issues made during Sancho Ramírez' lifetime, in this case the legend was PETRVSSANCII, but with no REX title, and with the mint named ARAGON and MONSON (Pl. IIa, b), there is also a new type (Fig. 9; Pl. IIc) with legend PETRVSSANCIVS REX, whose interpretation would be: "Peter (son) of the king Sancho", this coin would be part of an early emission. Heiss described, both in deniers as well as in obols, pieces with legend PETRVS REX and the face of the type of Sancho Ramírez, with reverse legend ARAGON. A denier of the first type recently appeared as part of a treasure of coins of Sancho Ramírez, the second type, with leyend “MONSON” was described by Vidal Quadras (1892), with the number 5272. The most common type of deniers and obols of Peter I , is a later type (Fig. 11; Pl. IIe-f) . The face style changes, and shows a typical bun, already described by Heiss and recorded in the later bibliographies. Sometimes, several types of Sancho Ramirez coins have been described, where in the reverse, and always in damaged pieces the cross of the reverse is substitued by a letter "P", and interpred as a mention to Peter I, which has led to some confussion, since this letter "P" doesn't really exist and is a bad interpretation of a damaged cross. Coins of Alfonso I, both with legend ARAGON (Fig. 13; Pl. IIIe), as well as ARAGONENSIS (Fig. 12; Pl. IIIa-d) already recopiled by Lastanosa, were later described and correctly atributed to Alfonso I  by Heiss, and some new variants interpreted by Vidal Quadras (numbers 5286-5287bis). The obols belonging to the second type have been recently described (Pl. IIId’).

Plate I.- Coins of Sancho V Ramirez of Aragon & Pamplona. 

Plate II.- Coins of Pedro I of Aragon & Pamplona. 

Plate III.- Coins of Alfonso I of Aragon & Pamplona.

domingo, 13 de abril de 2014

A medieval "agnostic" coin, in full Christian Reconquest

A medieval "agnostic" coin, in full Christian Reconquest.
Translation of an article published in Spanish: “El Eco Filatélico y Numismático
(November 2000). Vol.56 (n. 1080): p.50.

In the Middle Ages, one of the main concerns of the Christian kings in the Iberian Peninsula, was the struggle against Islam, that as a powerful blaze spreaded throughout the known world. Hence, one of the principal objectives of European kings in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was the reconquest of the Holy Places, under pressure from a society imbued with religious feeling and Christian life, pugnacious determination stretching from the king to the humblest of his subjects.

Currencies of Sancho VII of Navarre

This motivation led to the political leaders of the time to use the figure of the cross on their more specific emblems, such as signs and seals and royal money. In this environment, at a time of exacerbation of religious feeling, it's strange for a Christian monarch not  to include the figure of the cross on their coins, as the main reason on the obverse or reverse, or as an element of separation of legend , nor in its "signature" or royal sign. Add to this the presence in the currencies of a crescent surmounted by a star (symbols commonly used in the Muslim world), and we face an unprecedented event in the numismatics of medieval Christian kingdoms. We emphasize the importance of this numismatic evidence, since at this time we could deduce the identity of the author of coinage by the symbols or legends of the same. These coins were minted in abundance, both deniers and mites in the reign of King Sancho VII of Navarre, surnamed "the Strong", during a long reign of over forty years between 1194 and 1234, and went down in history for his role in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa against Muslims.

At this time, we can find the figure of the crescent moon and star in the emissions of Raymond VI and Raymond VII (1194-1249), the counts of Toulouse (France), although in this case on the other side of the coin features a large cross, and also a small cross marks the separation of words in the legends (text that appears on the currency). On the coins of Sancho VII, this separation is made with points.

During this time, there are some curious anecdotes of the coins, such as frequent falsification of Almohad square dirhams by some Christians, so that the same Christian bishop of Melguell (southern France) coined Arab currency with Koranic texts and professing Muslim faith, a fact which was rejected by the Pope himself. However in this case they were imitations of the prestigious Muslim coin. When in the late twelfth century Alfonso VIII of Castile minted gold coins, he included a cross on the reverse, and Christian texts, but written with Arabic legends.

The figure of the king of Navarre Sancho VII "the Strong" has entered popular mythology from his decisive intervention in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), where he defeated his former friend, Amir Muhammad ibn Ya'qub to Nasir (known by Christians as Miramamolín, abbreviation of its Arabic title of "Emir al-Mu'mineen") and from this historic event comes the shield of the chains of Navarre, introduced in mid-thirteenth century as a sign of identity of the Old Kingdom.

However, from the economic standpoint, this king has passed into history as the "banker to the kings”, banker as stated, minted their coins without using the cross symbol on them (an exceptional occurrence in the  medieval Christian coinage), and where it appears on the obverse the bust of the monarch, with the legend: SANCIVS REX, and on the reverse a crescent moon and star, with NAVARRORVM or NAVARRE legends. Sancho VII supported the bourgeois of Bayonne (France) and gave large sums to the king of Aragon, obtaining in return, collateral, numerous castles and villas (as Petilla of Aragon, Aragonese village that still belongs to Navarre).
Mausoleum and tomb of Sancho VII “the Strong” in Roncesvalles (Navarra)

It remains to establish the reasons why the Navarrese monarch dispensed with the use of the cross on his coins. Perhaps it could affect his friendship with the African emir (the nickname Miramamolín), with whom he spent long periods in North Africa, or perhaps the influence of Jewish bankers, who at that time controlled the economy of the kingdom and were the only capable of performing loans with interest or usury, activity prohibited to Christians because of scholastic economic ethics in those days, and only practiced by the Jews, which was precisely one of the causes of resentment against this group, source of persecution and killing of this group in the early fourteenth century.