Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
University of California - Berkeley
Pieces of Change: Uncovering the Networks of Arabic Coins that Transformed Ancient Global Interactions

Even in today’s world, money is not just about finance. Money has arranged social relations and powerfully connected people across continents for well over a millennium. I am an anthropological archaeologist working in the Middle East and Europe to examine data from thousands of ancient Arabic coins for my doctoral dissertation. When examined with digital archaeological tools, these coins reveal previously undetected social networks. Not least, the coins reflect past Arab encounters with Slavic, Turkic, and Scandinavian communities thousands of miles away from the Arabian mainland. These coins from the Abbāsid Caliphate have been uncovered across Eurasia, but predominantly in Northern Europe, along the Volga River in Russia, and throughout modern-day Eastern Europe. The archaeology of these Arabic coins reveals a global economic system based on Arab silver that transformed ancient Eurasia to the global space that it remains today. Previously, these materials were largely studied as site- or region-based phenomena without a comprehensive study that investigates how they operated trans-regionally at the macro scale. Consequentially, these important objects of archaeological and cultural heritage value remain largely inaccessible to source communities. To address these issues, my dissertation research applies new technologies in Archaeology, including social network analysis and photogrammetry, in consultation with local stakeholders to reveal this understudied multicultural past. I aim to model the material networks of Arabic coinage across Eurasia in order to explain how money structures global social relations and how money often operates in unexpected, unintended ways. Ultimately, my goal is to make this knowledge about the Eurasian past and anthropological understandings of money more widely accessible to the public. The cultural heritage represented in the Abbāsid coins cuts across national borders, languages, and far distances. These materials thus remind us that today, as in the past, social distance does not always correlate with physical distance.