ahrc-logo-forwebox brandDirhams for Slaves
Dirham hoards from Northern Europe, trade in Slavic slaves, and the emergence of Medieval Europe (800-1000)

Lost in Translation? Ibn Fadlan and the Great Unwashed

General image14–15 March 2016 - MBI Al Jaber Building, Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Ibn Fadlan’s vivid eye-witness report of his mission to the Bulgars on the Middle Volga in 921/2 is probably one of the most widely known and intensively studied of early Arabic texts. Yet the importance of Ibn Fadlan and his mission has yet to receive a full and rounded assessment.

Our two-day interdisciplinary conference will draw on historians, numismatists, textual scholars and archaeologists and will attempt to set Ibn Fadlan’s account within the broader context of tenth-century Europe, the Islamic world and the Eurasian steppes.

Speakers include:

Irina Arzhantseva, Moscow; Jean-Charles Ducène, Paris; Heinrich Härke, Tübingen/Reading; Thórir Jónsson Hraundal, Iceland; Evgeniy Kazakov, Tatarstan Academy of Sciences; Hugh Kennedy, SOAS; Viacheslav Kuleshov, State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; James Montgomery, Cambridge; Veronika Murasheva, State Historical Museum, Moscow; Leonard Nedashkovsky, Kazan Federal University; Walter Pohl, Vienna; Neil Price, Uppsala; Søren Michael Sindbæk, Aarhus; Ian Wood, Leeds

Please note that you must register to attend. The registration fee of £20 (£10 for students) covers the costs of attending all sessions, coffees and teas and a sandwich lunch on Monday 14 March.

Registration for the conference via the University’s Online Stores has now closed; but for any queries regarding attendance, please contact Jonathan Shepard (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).




Speakers' and Chairs' Biographies


We gratefully acknowledge the support of the: John Fell OUP Research Fund; Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East and Faculty of Oriental Studies; Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research and History Faculty.


Early Medieval Imitational Coinages. A conference at the Royal Coin Cabinet, Stockholm, November 5th-7th 2015

ar300 S0516 NmNd nfg96 3.10 303b ImUglyThe ability to issue coinage has frequently been considered to be one of the main attributes of early medieval states. Historians of countries such as Sweden, Poland or Bohemia – the list is by no means exhaustive – have looked to the first national coinages in order to establish at which point these political structures became ‘independent’, fully formed ‘states’. This perspective leaves little place for coins that did not bear any national insignia or royal names, but merely imitated, with varying degrees of accuracy, the coinages of more powerful neighbours. In the last half century, however, it has become apparent that issues of imitative coinage were widespread in the early Middle Ages (8th – 12th centuries). What is more, in some cases imitations dominated the early coinages of the emerging states, relegating ‘official’ issues to the status of an economically insignificant admixture.

The goal of the conference is to reverse the traditional monetary perspective through which early medieval history is viewed by placing the imitations centre stage. We will attempt to deal both with their bewildering diversity – Islamic, Byzantine, Anglo-Saxon and German coins were being imitated not only in most of Northern Europe, from the British Isles to Volga Bulgaria, but also within their lands of origin – and with the apparent uniformity of their purpose – which was economic rather than political. By downgrading the imitations to the rank of anomalous ‘ugly’ coins, historians have neglected a crucial aspect of the early medieval economy. The conference will seek to correct the nationalist bias of the historiography of the early Middle Ages and thus contribute to its fuller understanding.

The conference is organised by Cecilia von Heijne, Marek Jankowiak and Luke Treadwell.


The Dark Ages' Dirty Secret? - seminar recordings online

Recordings of the lectures delivered as part of the Trinity Term 2015 seminar series "The Dark Ages' Dirty Secret? Medieval slavery from the British Isles to the Eurasian steppes and the Mediterranean world" are now available on the Resources page of this website.

Sessions at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, 9 July 2015

Three sessions related to the "Dirhams for Slaves" project will be held at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds on 9 July 2015. The sessions were organized by Jonathan Shepard. Speakers will present their research on the circulation of silver in Northern Europe, Viking-Islamic commerical exchanges, and early medieval slavery.


Special exhibition in the Coin Gallery, Ashmolean Museum (July to September 2015)

Members of the Dirhams for Slaves project and colleagues from the Royal Coin Cabinet, Stockholm, collaborated on an exhibition entitled Islamic trade with the northern lands in the Viking Age. The centrepiece of the exhibition was a loan of more than fifty Islamic silver coins from the Royal Coin Cabinet which were displayed on a map that showed the major concentrations of silver hoards deposited along the trade routes that linked the Islamic world and the northern lands in the 9th and 10th centuries CE.


"Dirhams for Slaves" Seminar, Trinity Term 2015, Oxford

A series of seminars related to the "Dirhams for Slaves" project entitled The Dark Ages’ Dirty Secret? Medieval slavery from the British Isles to the Eurasian steppes and the Mediterranean world will be held in Oxford in the Trinity Term (April-June) 2015. Speakers from Oxford, other British universities and Mainz will talk on topics ranging from drug trade as a potential template for medieval slave trade through fur trade to various aspects of slavery and slave trade in Norman Sicily, Northern Europe, Byzantium, Islamic world and the steppe. The seminars wil be taking place in the Lecture Room of the Khalili Research Centre, 3 St John Street, Oxford.

Detailed programme

Silver Landscapes in Viking-Age Gotland: From Hoards to Settlements

26 Mar 2015 - A workshop to be held in the School of Archaeology, Oxford.

Programme and registration details



A Central Asian trade hub: Khwarazm in the Late Antique and Early Islamic period

28-29 Nov 2014 - A workshop at Wolfson College, Oxford

Khwarazm, an autonomous kingdom situated on the southern shore of what used to be the Aral Sea in Central Asia, played in Late Antiquity and in the early Middle Ages a pivotal role as the interface between the sedentary world to its south and the Eurasian steppe. Entirely forgotten to the modern world (with the exception of Soviet-era archaeologists), it mediated exchanges between the Sogdians and the nomads, between Iran and the Turks, and between Scandinavia and the Islamic world, and developed its own unique culture at the intersection of all these influences.


Iran Resurgent? Politics, Literature and Trade in the Samanid Era

22-23 Sep 2014 - A conference in Wadham College, Oxford, convened by Luke Treadwell and Dominic Parviz Brookshaw.

Conference programme

This conference will explore new perspectives on literary production and political history in the eastern Iranian successor states (in particular the Samanid state) which emerged as the Abbasid centre began to decline.


Archaeology of the early medieval slave trade in Northern Europe: looking for the material evidence

11 Sep 2014 – Marek Jankowiak and Felix Biermann held a session on the Archaeology of Slavery at the 20th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists.

Session programme


Silver and Other Economies in the Viking Age

23-24 Apr 2014 – Marek Jankowiak and Jacek Gruszczynski presented papers at the Silver and Other Economies in the Viking Age conference at the Institute of Archaeology of the University College, London.