5. Black Dirham, 1214 CE

The debt acknowledgment references purchases in Fustat's perfumer's market and it highlights a range of specialized terminology connected to the usage of black dirhams (darāhim sawād). This form of coinage took its name from the discoloration of silver that had been alloyed with copper, tin, and other metals to produce what is known today in English as "billon" or "wariq/waraq" in Judaeo-Arabic. The silver content of black dirhams was commonly 33% or less [1]. On a formulaic level, the document frames a recurring clause with which medieval legal documents referenced the "legal tender in Egypt" (al-mutaʿāmil bihi fī al-diyār al-Maṣrīyya) [2]. Although the dating of this particular source is explicit as 1214 CE, generally, the mention of black dirhams in geniza fragments can be useful for estimating provenance given that their production ceased in 1225 CE.

[1] Cécile Bresc, "Quseir al-Qadim: a Hoard of Islamic Coins from the Ayyubid period," Revue Numismatique 164.6 (2008): 411.

[2] For variations and the recurrence of this formula in legal deeds, see: Moss. VII,58.1, T-S 12.428, T-S 13J4.9, T-S 16.200, T-S 18J1.33, T-S 8J6.9, T-S NS 321.79.

"Acknowledgement of Debt," CUL T-S 10J5.1r, 1214 CE, Judaeo-Arabic.

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2 There appeared before us Shaykh Bū l-Fakhr, a buyer in the market | כן הוא חצר אלינא אלשיך בו אלפכר אלמתסוק בסוק

3 of the perfumers the son of al-Shaykh Bū l-Futūḥ al-Levi, may his soul rest in Eden, and he stated to us, | אלעטארין בן אלשיך בו אלפתוח אללוי נע פקאל לנא

4 ‘Make the symbolic purchase from me and bear witness for me that I owe a debt | אקנוא מני ואשהד[ו עלי] אן ענדי ופי דמתי וכאלץ

5 to be paid in the wariq that is legal tender in Egypt,| מאליי מן אלורק אלמתעאמל בה פי אלדיאר אלמצריה

6 seventy-six and ¼ black dirhams. [To be paid in] successive installments | דראהם סואד סתה וסבעין דרהמא ורבע אקצאט

7 of ten dirhams each week... | ...מתואליה עשר דראהם פי כל אסבוע

(ed. S.D. Goitein, trans. Matthew Dudley and Alan Elbaum)

Black Dirham from the Princeton Numismatic Collection (Coin: 16483)

Denomination: dirham

Metal: Billon

Date: 1036 to 1094

Size: 14 in mm

Die Axis: 9

Weight: 0.88 in grams

Shape: round

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