Literary Reading: Fatimid Objects – Glass Weights Bearing the Names of Imams al-Zahir and al-Mustansir

Weights from the Reigns of Imams al-Zahir and al-Mustansir

Fatimid Glass Weights

These weights were used to verify the weight of coins

Name of Object :
Glass weights

Holding Museum:
Jordan Archaeological Museum, Amman, Jordan

Museum Inventory Number:
J.16546; J.16547; J.16550

Dimensions:
Diameter (in the range) 26–27 mm,
weights:
4.68 g;
5.02 g;
5.15 g

Material(s)/Technique(s):
Cast glass.

Date of the objects:
J.16547. Hegira 411–27 / AD 1021–36; J.16546. Hegira 427–87 / AD 1036–94

Period / Dynasty:
J.16547. Fatimid (Al-Zahir);
J.16546. Fatimid (Al-Mustansir)

Provenance:
Probably Egypt.

Description:
Dark-gray coloured glass weights used to verify the weights of coins. The weights are small, round glass discs with an impressed inscription of the name and title of the caliph or the name of the governor on them.

The glass weights depicted here are from the Fatimid period.  Such weights are principally from the reigns of the two Fatimid Caliphs al-Zahir (r. AH 411–27 / AD 1021–36), and al-Mustansir (r. AH 427–87 / AD 1036–94).

The weights bear the following titular inscriptions written in foliated kufic script:

J.16546: bears the name of the commander of the faithful: الامام معد ابو تميم المستنصر (امير المؤمنين) (‘Al-Imam Mu`id Abu Tamim al-Mustansir Billah (Amir al-Mu`minin)’ within an embossed frame and circle.

J.16547: bears the name of the commander of the faithful الظاهر لاعزاز دين الله (امير المؤمنين) ‘al-Zahir li-izaz Dein Allah (Amir al-Mu`minin)’ within an embossed frame and circle.

J.16550: bears only the name of God: الله ‘Allah’

How object was obtained:
The weights were recovered during the course of an archaeological excavation carried out in 1990 at the site of Islamic Ayla, modern-day Aqaba.

How object was dated:
The weights have inscriptions impressed on one side of them that give the names and titles of two Fatimid caliphs: al-Zahir (r. AH 411–27 / AD 1021–36), and al-Mustansir (r. AH 427–87 / AD 1036–94).

How provenance was established:
From the inscription bearing the names of the Fatimid Caliphs

_________________________

Token from the Reign of Imam al-Zahir

Fatimid Token

Glass token probably used as a fiduciary coin in place of bronze coin

Name of Object:
Token or weight

Holding Museum:
National Museum of Oriental Art (Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale),
Rome, Italy

Museum Inventory Number:
15348/ 21523

Dimensions:
Diameter 2.2 mm, depth 4 mm, weight 2.4 g

Material(s)/Technique(s):
Green glass.

Date of the object:
Hegira 411–27 / AD 1020–35

Period/Dynasty:
Fatimid

Provenance:
Egypt.

Description:
Green glass token with a relief border, in a reasonable state of conservation, weighing slightly less than one whole dirham, which is 2.97 g. The token is marked only with a three-line inscription in kufic characters within a circle in the middle of the front face. The first line reads ‘al-imâm al-Zâhir’, the second ‘al azaz din Allâh’ and the third ‘amîr al-mu minin’.

Traditional Byzantine glass tokens were generally used as monetary weights, and this use was particularly common among Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs as well as among the Egyptian Tulunids and the Aglabids of North Africa. Shi’ite caliphs also used tokens for other means, particularly from the time of al-Mu’izz (AH 341–65 / AD 953–75). The fact that many of the tokens found are of identical weight suggests that they were used as ‘fiduciary coins’ in place of bronze coins, particularly as bronze was extremely rare in Egypt at that time. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that no glass tokens have ever been found in Syria, where bronze was abundantly available. These tokens are inscribed on at least one of their faces, bearing the name of the Caliph and sometimes even the mint. Most Fatimid tokens come from the time of two caliphs in particular, Abu ‘Ali al-Hakim (AH 386–411 / AD 996–1021) and al-Mustansir (AH 427–87 / AD 1036–94), although a large number also come from the time of al-Zahir, al-Amir and other caliphs.

How object was obtained:
Purchase.

How object was dated:
Historical chronology (years of reign of Fatimid caliph).

How provenance was established:
From the inscription with the name of the caliph.

_______________________

Token from the Reign of Imam al-Mustansir

Fatimid Token

Name of Object :
Token or weight

Holding Museum:
National Museum of Oriental Art (Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale)
Rome, Italy

Museum Inventory Number:
21524/15349

Dimensions:
Diameter 13 mm, depth 3 mm; weight 0.7 g

Material(s)/Technique(s):
Colourless glass.

Date of the object:
Hegira 427–87 / AD 1035–94

Period/Dynasty:
Fatimid dynasty, Caliph al-Mustansir

Provenance:
Egypt.

Description:
Colourless glass token with a relief border, in a reasonable state of conservation, weighing slightly more than one quarter of a dirham, which is 0.66 g. The token is marked only with a two-line inscription in kufic characters in the middle of the front face. The first line reads ‘al-imâm’ and the second ‘Ma‘add’, which refers to the Caliph al-Mustansir.

How object was obtained:
Purchase.

How object was dated:
Historical chronology (years of reign of Fatimid caliph).

How provenance was established:
Inscription with the name of the caliph.

________________

Credits:

Above Text and Images reproduced with the kind permission of Museum with No Frontiers (MWNF). Copyright MWNF.

Please visit the state of the art MWNF Website at  http://www.museumwnf.org/ and click on Discover Islamic Art for more images, close-ups, additional research material and bibliography of the above object(s) as well as numerous objects and monuments from other periods of Islamic History.

Please read other articles in this website on Fatimid Objects/Monuments at MWNF:
Literary Reading: Fatimid Monument – Aqueduct in Kairouan, Tunisia; Patron Imam al-Mui’zz (the reading includes a summary of the goals and vision of MWNF)
Literary Reading: Fatimid Object – Textile Fragment Attributed to Imam al-Aziz
Literary Reading: Fatimid Monuments – The Al-Hakim Mosque and Bab al-Futuh (Gate of Conquest)

Literary Reading: Fatimid Object – Fragment of Robe Attributed to Imam al-Mustansir
Literary Reading: Fatimid Objects – Four Ivory Panels

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