Alpine Ice-Core Evidence for the Transformation of the European Monetary System, AD 640-670

By Loveluck, Christopher P.; McCormick, Michael et al. | Antiquity, December 2018 | Go to article overview

Alpine Ice-Core Evidence for the Transformation of the European Monetary System, AD 640-670


Loveluck, Christopher P., McCormick, Michael, Spaulding, Nicole E., Clifford, Heather, Handley, Michael J., Hartman, Laura, Hoffmann, Helene, Korotkikh, Elena V., Kurbatov, Andrei V., More, Alexander F., Sneed, Sharon B., Mayewski, Paul A., Antiquity


Introduction

During the second half of the seventh century AD, the coin-using regions of North-west Europe switched from gold to silver currencies. This change was a key element in the social and economic transformations that resulted in increased long-distance trade, greater specialisation and the growth of large port settlements (McCormick 2001; Loveluck 2013). Yet the sources of the silver that allowed the shift from gold to silver coinage have proven enigmatic. In the rare cases when scholars have addressed this issue, they have assumed that the silver came primarily from existing European stocks of residual Roman bullion, or that silver was imported from the Mediterranean region (Scull 2013: 546; Naismith 2014: 10). Recent archaeological exploration of an early medieval silver mine at Melle (Deux-Sevres, France) and the isotopic profiling of its lead have indicated that exploitation of these deposits could have contributed to the epochal economic shift of the mid seventh century AD (Tereygeol 2010: 251, 259). Data on lead pollution from a new ice core at Colle Gnifetti, Switzerland (Figure 1), provides evidence of the renewed smelting of silver-lead ores from c. AD 640-670. This unambiguously shows that, alongside any residual pool of Roman bullion and imported metal, new mining facilitated the production of the last post-Roman gold coins--debased with increasing amounts of silver--and the new silver coinages that replaced them. The high-resolution ice-core record offers a new and independent chronology for renewed silver production in the early medieval west.

Previously published ice-core records, for example, from central Greenland (GRIP and GISP2), demonstrate trends in changing pollution and climate-driven atmospheric circulation in the northern hemisphere. These include evidence for the scale of northern hemisphere silver-lead smelting in the Roman period, and for the influences of climate change on marine and terrestrial air masses from the 'Medieval Climate Anomaly' (e. AD 950-1250) to the 'Little Ice Age' (c. AD 1400-1700) (Mayewski et al. 1993; Hong et al 1994; Kreutz et al. 1997). In contrast, the new Alpine ice core from Colle Gnifetti (45[degrees]55'N, 7[degrees]52'E) provides a lead pollution record from the heart of Western Europe, with a high-resolution annual layer-counted chronology covering the last 2000 years (More et al. 2017; Bohleber et al. 2018). The core documents the 'signatures' of a range of macro-economic and societal changes that are not evident in those Greenland ice cores published to date. One of these signatures is the renewed mining and smelting of silver-lead ores in Western Europe during the seventh century AD. Analysis of atmospheric circulation patterns, provided by Climate Re-analyzer[TM] visualisation software (Climate Change Institute, University of Maine-- CCI), illuminates the potential sources that delivered lead aerosol to Colle Gnifetti. We compare the ice-core evidence to other pollution records and archaeological and historical data from specific mining sites and regions (Figure 1). We then consider the implications of this new evidence for understanding the transformation of the economy of mid seventh-century early medieval Europe.

The Colle Gnifetti ice core: analytical methods and chronological framework

The ice core was extracted in August 2013 from the Colle Gnifetti glacier (Monte Rosa, 4450m asl) in the Swiss-Italian Alps. The drill site was located on the north-facing slope of the glacier, on a flow-line trending towards its eastern flank (Figure 2). The core was drilled to bedrock, is 72m long and has an estimated net surface accumulation of approximately 0.2m of water equivalent per year. The chronological resolution derived from different elements and the measurement of lead pollution was established in a two-phase process: firstly, through continuous flow analysis and high-resolution discrete inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and ion chromatography; and, secondly, by annual layer-counting using ultra-high resolution laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Alpine Ice-Core Evidence for the Transformation of the European Monetary System, AD 640-670
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.