The Colour of Money: Crusaders and Coins in the Thirteenth-Century Baltic Sea
Stockholm Studies in Archaeology, 53, (2010)
The colourful dark ages
This paper investigates how colour was perceived differently in the European Middle Ages and carried significance beyond what we ascribe it today. It also considers how the various colours worked as important carriers of values and concepts in this context, where pigments were rare and expensive. A way to access the medieval understanding of colour is through heraldry and its colours, the tinctures, which combine hard and soft materials, even and three-dimensional surfaces, in a way that evades present-day definitions of colour. Medieval people used their senses in a cross-modal way to perceive colour and connect it to an intricate world of symbolism and values. To them, it is argued, colour was a texture just as much as a hue. The aim of the paper is to investigate this relationship between colour, ideas and materiality, filtered through the senses, and made manifest in a group of thirteenth-century Scandinavian coins.