08 September 2008

More Portable Art

The Muwahhid dynasty minted coins that inspired subsequent regimes of the area and rest of the Islamic societies. When they succeeded the Almoravid dynasty, they changed the nature of the coinage with new weights and new forms. In this instance, the ruling authorities employed these new qualities to separate themselves from previous regime. The most distinctive change was to mint the silver dirham in a square form. Augmenting and continuing this motif, the gold dinar was minted with a square in circle motif. Another alteration was to replace the traditional Kufic script with the more elegant Nashk. In all respects, this dynasty seemed to want to break away from previous tradition, and establish new ones of their own. To this they were quite successful. This was in part due to the tremendous advantages the geography of this area provided them. The Caravanserai that brought salt south towards Ghana returned with gold. When later trade expanded the products to slaves and ivory it brought in more high value trade goods. Therefore, it is not surprising the gold coins they minted were heavy and ornate. The society wanted to emphasize their preeminence in both trade and religious affairs, and had the wherewithal to accomplish that task.
Examining the dinar, we see a large picture space, one that provided ample room for names and titles as well inscriptional messages. These qualities made it popular to the rulers because it provided them opportunity to express their political and religious views. On the other hand, it was the volume of dirhams minted that led it to become the primary trade currency of the western Mediterranean. These coins were also were adjusted comply with the popular attitude, just as was the case in the Levant and Egypt. Inscriptions again were the issue. Probably in response to contact with Christian merchants, inscriptions were modified to read Muhammad is our Messenger from Muhammad is the messenger. (My emphasis.) Obviously, the intention was to placate the foreign populations this coin was intended to serve. Not all inscriptions were aimed at solely foreign audiences. One common inscription was the ruling authority’s exhortation that he was the commander of the faithful. Obviously, this was intended for domestic consumption in addition to foreigners. However, we must keep in mind, despite this common wording, the intended communication was not necessarily the same one.

2 comments:

Margaret said...

The coins are fabulous. I'm amazed at how much research you seem to do for your posts! The Greek coins below are lovely as well.

boba said...

Repair, Reuse, and Recycle...
Because this blog is for the most part a part-time effort, I use excerpts from previous materials, papers, submissions, and previous research.
The hard part is deciding which topic to explore then editing down the blather. I'm still learning how to communicate in this medium. I believe my posts are too long by far.
Nevertheless, I hope to expand this will expand the definition of art for many people. Too many consider paintings and sculpture the pinnacle of art and I want to broaden their horizons.