The Common People and Material Relics of Antiquity the Afterlife of Ancient Coins in the Territory of Present-Day Poland in the Medieval and Modern Periods
Keywords:ancient coins, Roman coins, coin finds, coin hoards, medieval context, modern context, monetary circulation, non-monetary functions of coins
Ancient coinage, almost exclusively Roman denarii from the 1st or 2nd century AD, constitutes a small percentage of hoards and other assemblages dated (with the latest coins present) to either the Middle Ages or to the modern period in the territory of present-day Poland. Such finds can be seen as strongly indicating that ancient coinage did function as means of payment at that time. This hypothesis is further supported by written sources. Moreover, ancient coins have also been recorded at other sites in medieval and modern period contexts e.g. in burial sites, which are less easy to interpret than hoards. Finds often include pierced coins and others showing suspension loops, which suggests they may have been used as amulets, jewellery or devotional medals. Other finds, such as Roman coins placed in alms boxes in modern period churches in Silesia, also point to a religious context. At the same time, written sources attest that at least since the Late Middle Ages, Roman denarii were known to common people as ‘St John’s pennies’. The name is associated with a Christian interpretation of the image of the emperor’s head on the coin, resembling that of John the Baptist on a silver platter.