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The monastic complex at Naqlun in Fayum Oasis

The monastic complex at Naqlun in Fayum Oasis
PCMA Archaeological Mission directed by Włodzimierz Godlewski
Excavation season - Sept.-Oct. 2005

Money, money...

This year, exploration was targeted on the interior of a domestic structure ("Building G") demonstrated in earlier seasons to have functioned from the 9th to the end of the 11th century AD. Beside more than a dozen economic texts in Coptic and Arabic, which combined with earlier discoveries form a sizable (over 60 documents) monastery "archive" connected with the administrative function of Building G, the expedition uncovered 13 golden coins, denari from the second half of the 10th century, lying nearby the northern entrance.

The coins originate from a breakthrough period in Egyptian medieval history when the Fatimids took power from teh Abbasids and introduced important changes of the fiscal system, devaluating the dinarii of their predecessors and issuing their own golden coins.

The 13 coins from Naqlun are all in almost mint condition. They were issued in the rule of the caliphs Al-Mu'izzi (AD 952-976) and al-Aziz (AD 976-996). Two of these, dated to 344 H (AD 955) and 361 H (AD 972), were struck at al-Munsuriya in Tunisia, while the rest originated from Egypt of the 980s and 990s. Their market value in the beginnings of Fatimid rule was considerable. If the banu Giorgi archives, discovered at Naqlun in 1997 are any indication, someone with 13 dinarii in hand could have purchased two villas with gardens in Fayum in the end of the 10th century.

During the same excavations season, reconnaissance work was carried out in the southern part of the monastery complex. Some Early Medieval architecture came to light, its functioning dated by the Arabic economic documents found inside particular rooms to the 10th-11th centuries AD and later, too, presumably, considering the numerous rebuildings. In a cache in one of the rooms, very carefully hidden were two dies for striking denari. It is an extremely rare category of finds from Egypt and upon preliminary analysis it seems to date from the 9th century, when the Abbasids ruled in Egypt. The findspot inside a Coptic monastery is in itself an issue of importance. Of one thing we may be sure - the monastery at Naqlun could never have acted as the place for producing gold denari.

  Two dies for striking denari