North Africa and Egypt
Fatimid, 10th-11th century CE
Materials and technique
Manufactured in state-run mints, the coins of the Fatimids were a means of visual communication to a vast public and a vehicle for enhancing the way people viewed the caliphate’s power and prestige. Their high gold content and purity -sustained throughout the Fatimid period - testified to the economic and monetary wealth of the state. Inscribed with the names and titles of the Fatimid imam-caliphs, the coins are also usually dated. They serve as important historical documents, while the mint and place names they bear illustrate the geographical extent of Fatimid rule. These coins are known for their fine, elegant epigraphy, and the myriad stylistic variations of their design. One example of this is the unusual and distinctive design that appears on coins produced in Palermo, Sicily (central item, third row). The central inscriptions on the reverse and obverse are arranged within segments so as to divide the surface into a star-like pattern. The coins of the following Fatimid imam-caliphs are presented: 'Abd Allah al-Mahdi bi’llah (r. 909-34 CE) al-Qa'im bi-amr Allah (r. 934-46 CE) al-Mansur bi’llah (r. 946-53 CE) al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah (r. 953-75 CE) al-'Aziz bi’llah (r. 975-96 CE) al-Hakim bi-amr Allah (r. 996-1021 CE) al-Zahir li-I'zaz Din Allah (r. 1021-36 CE) and al-Mustansir bi’llah (r. 1036-94 CE) [two coins].
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