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Attempts to reinterpret the senses attributed in the past to some phenomena of broadly defined sphere of the Slavic exchange carried out in recent years have faced a constant opposition of the adherents of the older conceptions. What is especially disliked among the Polish archaeologists are the attempts to adopt the theories of anthropology or cultural studies. These are models for the formulation of new interpretations of the issues mentioned above. Presumably a distrust of the attempts to renovate the old metaphors is caused by the epistemological naturalism. They seem to be behind accusations, made in discussions (e.g. by M. Bogucki), aimed at the authors of the new interpretations who are criticised for an allegedly botchy investigation, overinterpretation and manipulation of the sources. What is the real source of the dispute are not the subject matter, but the conceptual assumptions that primarily direct the detailed studies made at a further stage. A lack of the agreement on the conceptual basis makes conducting of these disputes impossible. What suitably illustrates the lack of the postulated 'communicative community' is M. Bogucki's polemic based, among other things, on a fallacious reading of the leading theses of the author conception. The problem he raised did not concern the social functions of precious metal and deposit, as my opponent claimed but a line and nature of the process of depositing silver seen in the context of the postulated syncretism of the traditional Slavic culture of the early Middle Ages. From the point of view of the cultural studies that aim at taking the perspective of the historical subjects into consideration during an interpretation, the very appeal to the old distinctions to distinguish between so called economic and cult (returnable and not returnable) hoards remains an epistemologically vain and useless treatment. His position is essentially grounded in the idea that there is a tight and subjectively invisible conjunction of the symbolic sphere and the technological sphere of culture to be found in the traditional societies of the early Middle Ages. While trying to show the specificity of the early medieval deposits in the terms of the previously–applied classification one could therefore say that any hoard was of both an economic and the cultic nature.
The paper is a polemic with M. Bogucki's and S Suchodolski's critical remarks concerning the author's views on the origin of silver objects in the Baltic zone. He claims that in the study of the pre-state communities it is difficult to separate the sphere of economic activities from symbolic and magic behaviour. Therefore it is not justified to concentrate merely on problems of the 'property', 'market', 'trading', 'profit', and 'money' as there is a lack of a definite vision of communities that left the 'hoards'. Fragmentation of silver objects and deposition of fragments of no functional properties is the constant argument of those who argue for universal penetration of market mechanisms in communities not organized in stable territorial states. In simpler words: they maintain that silver fragmentation is material proof of the functioning of a market on which weighed silver gave way to small monetary units. Extremely accurate metal weighing would have been justified only if there had been precisely defined weight standards to be precisely balanced. So far search for such weighing systems has yielded no results. Examples of erroneous or exaggerated metrological interpretations of the past phenomena must warn those who at all costs search for measurable axioms. Attempts to specify the measures that were in force in prehistoric building engineering, smithery, or commercial exchange, provide an illusion of the higher 'scientific' character of discussion based upon practical rationalism and excluding considerations of the mentality of people who lived within a symbolic–magic reality that is difficult to understand. Due to this obsessional 'economising' of the social and cultural context of the finds of metal scrap, discussion is practically impossible, for alternative suggestions bounce from a concrete wall. Questioning the hypotheses based on economic rationalism premises does not mean that they should totally give way to a hypothesis that will focus merely on non–economic behaviours. Homo symbolicus and homo oeconomicus were two complementary spheres of human mentality in the early Middle Ages and all the epochs to follow.
The papers and polemics of Mateusz Bogucki, Jacek Kowalewski, Jerzy Pininski and Stanislaw Suchodolski concerning hoards from the Viking Period are already published. The present response gives revue of ideas about the above mentioned problems current in Scandinavian research in last decades, and also author's own views, mainly on hacksilver and pecks. For a very long time one of the most discussed problems was the reasons for hiding hoards of silver coins and other valuable items. The generally accepted explanation, formulated by Swedish historian Sture Bolin, who claimed that hoards were deposited in time of wars, was rejected by Finish numismatist Pekka Sarvas. According to him hoards were always hidden, the only impact wars had on this custom, was that the number of hoards which stayed under earth surface was larger during the wars than during the times of peace. At the moment archaeologists understand hiding hoards as a complex pheonomenon, partly pragmatical - hiden for safety, partly religious - as offerings to gods or collections of precious things that were aimed to serve dead owner in Afterlive. Cutting of items of silver to pieces is generally seen as a way to obtain small 'change'. The economy that was employing silver in many forms by using balances and weights, was as dominating form as the gift and redestribution economy that was functioning at the same time. While hacksilver was created among Scandinavians in the Insular world the another phenomenon appeared at once - cutting small marks on the items, the so called pecks. For a very long time they were seen as attempts to recognise the quality of metal, but author's studies showed that it was not the case. He claims that they were a traces of a ritual exercised during the exchange transaction where the parts involved cut marks on silver for magical reasons. At the moment he still thinks that the cutting was a ritual but not of magical character. This was performed as a manifestation of trust, aimed to show for the one part that the other one was honest. The papers of Przemyslaw Urbanczyk made a great fuss by stating that the cutting of silver into pieces was a demonstation of the members of elites made in order to destroy the social contents of ornaments, such as armrings, before these depreciated metal was distributed among peoples of lower rank. At the same time Urbanczyk did not appreciated opinions that the hacksilver was created for exchange transactions by making the pieces a units in a weight system. (1 figure)
The early Middle Ages are a time of extremely intensive metal deposition in the history of the Baltic zone and large amounts of considerably broken up silver were hidden at that time. Different factors have been pointed out that might have affected the burying of such hoards, as well as the considerable fragmentation of coins and ornaments. The prevailing approaches are those that emphasize economic, political, military and - last but not least - symbolic (cult) causes.The author questions interpretations proposed by Jacek Kowalewski and Przemyslaw Urbanczyk. The first one analyzed early medieval hoards according to their burial place. In his opinion most early medieval hoards had been hidden with no intention to retrieve them again. The very act of burying silver was allegedly characterized by symbolic references. The foregoing being true in part, one should, however, point out that this does not mean that silver did not perform the function of a monetary circulation means. Przemyslaw Urbanczyk maintains that the circulation of silver and the custom of the deposition of property was supposedly determined almost exclusively by faith, magic and symbolic sphere. In order to maintain it, one's goods had to be spent or distributed, not invested or accumulated to be multiplied. The foregoing is evidenced by tiny incisions upon the silver (pecks) which contradictory to many views do not seem to be remnants of metal testing. However, the ritual interpretation of pecks, once it has been accepted, does not mean that fragmentation of silver was of such a character, or - in consequence - that silver, as it was, did not perform monetary functions. Comparative studies that have been carried out as well as the scope of written and archaeological sources pertaining to the issue provide us with a rather clear image. The fragmentation of silver items was done chiefly for economic purposes: the goal was to obtain a low value monetary unit. Whether such a fragmented mass was accepted by the piece or by the weight, still remains unknown. The needs for manifestation were another important causa why silver - mainly ornaments - was being damaged. However, the custom to incise or pierce coins through was an almost exclusively magic operation. As far as the causes why metal was hidden are concerned, certainly the most common of them are those of economic (accumulation and storage of goods), military (property being secured against robbery, temporarily hidden loot, tributes) and cultic character (religious offerings, signs of prestige). All of them must have been significant and mutually co-existing. Attempts to separate them and find a single predominating cause are definitely bound for failure.(The English version of the abstracted paper is available in proceedings of the XIIIth International Numismatic Congress held in Madrid in 2003).
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