Paying the Piper
The old staff dining room ( in the top photo) lies directly underneath the State Dining room. Of course, it is no longer used as such and is, in fact, the opening room and introduction to the Egyptian Exhibition. Display cabinets are arranged around it, in one of which is a collection of objects based around writing and coins.
From children we have grown up with the painted scenes of Egyptian life found in tombs, often quite marvellously preserved despite their antiquity. Amidst the gods and goddesses there are often quite surprisingly mundane scenes: perhaps grain being collected or goods being exchanged in markets. Ancient Egypt society was based on large-scale production, cereal growing and some manufacturing in terms of building materials and pottery for home.
On one excavation, the 5th Earl (of Tutankhamun fame) found a papyrus contract which set out property rights and ownership. There are other records which talk about a unit of measurement called the shat. For example, in one record from 2750-2150 BC the description reads “I acquired this house against payment from the scribe Chenti. I paid ten shat for it, namely fabric (worth) three shat; a bed (worth) four shat; material (worth) three shat”. To which the defendant declared: “You made the payments (of ten shat). The higher unit of value was the Deneb but neither were seemingly supported by coins. There are further records of taxes levied on harvest and property but payable in grain or by labour rather than money.
In fact, the earliest coins came later and have been dated to Ptolemaic times in the last millennium of the ancient civilisation. Initially, they were made of electrum, a compound of gold and silver. Over time they were carved, engraved, embossed, stamped and printed, telling us about changing worlds and values. They began to represent individual measures of worth through the materials they were made of such as silver, copper or bronze. Today, the actual metal value of the coins has been reduced to a more symbolic amount and are not backed by gold assets such as in the past.
We have found a few coins here, perhaps dropped by travellers passing by or by those who lived here and were walking home. An unusual one is from the Atrebates tribe (the time of Julius Caesar), there is one from the time of Charles I or Elizabeth I, others are much later. Elsewhere in the UK, hoards of coins have been found buried, probably in advance of invaders or intruders, with the owner sadly not able to return.
Rather like in ancient Egyptian times, the units of value in 2020 allow the purchase of everyday items. Coins are increasingly rare with notes made of paper or plastic. International currencies are compared, money borrowed based on an assessment of credit or perhaps borrowed anyway on the promise or hope it can be paid back at some point in the future, with interest, inflation, devaluation and the problem postponed.
The UK “Pound” is derived from the word meaning weight, in this case of the money. Sadly, over the last few months it has been far too easy to pile on the pounds in every sense of the word and many of us are now trying to reduce the wrong type of pounds we have acquired during lockdown. At some point governments too will have to find ways to reduce their “weight gains” in terms of borrowed pounds.
We will all have to pay the piper, tighten our belts and the challenge is to try not to overload the future. In the meantime, I suspect it’s back to keep calm and carry on with the yoga.
Lol, thanks for the chuckle over the metaphors at the end of your post. I also like the ‘keep calm and carry on with the yoga’. I am only too aware of my overvalued ‘weight’ that has been accumulating these past months. My clothing is a daily reminder of the work I need to do to come down from my ‘overinflation’. 😀
I hope you and your family and staff have a great week. All the best from here in Summerville, South Carolina.
You too – thank you !
Fascinating. Thank you for this. What a fabulous place to live.
The stories of the English Mints are interesting. Derrick Anthony (probably not my ancestor, but then again …) was Chief Graver in the Mint in London long ago. He was also a jeweller, living in Goldsmiths Row and helped to run the first lottery. He also made some of the stamps to identify the “real” money as compared to the debased and devalued money they had minted when the govt. didn’t have enough real gold and silver to make proper coins. And so on…
It is a story of making it up!!!
But where does the Staff eat now? And where do they live (roughly speaking, of course)?
In their own homes!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I love your expression of “try not to overload the future”. We are “hanging our hats” on many thoughts of “normal”, yet I think it wise to stay positive and realistic. As we don’t really know when a vaccine, coupled with continuing careful behavior, will remediate the virus, I think you are wise to note that while we do hope for the future, we should not overload our expectations. I like to look at things as “each day is one day closer to the resolution”, and look to the future with hope for what it holds. Such is my resolve to return to Highclere, despite bringing a few extra personal pounds, as well as saving the other kind of pounds and hoping for a good exchange rate with the US dollar!
Thank you for more insight and history, and yes, yoga will help dispel the “fog” each day. And dogs. And hope for the future.
I hope you and your dear ones continue to stay well.
Charlotte Merriam Cole
Today has been a good day – a good walk -wet shoes and all dogs tucked up!
Good Morning Lady Carnarvon,
From Boston, MA – I do enjoy reading your Blog..specially when it has to do with Ancient Egyptian insight. I Hope one day I get to visit your beautiful home which I admire so very much and knowing it was the home of the person who was part of the discovery of My favorite excavation – King Tutankhamun. Have a wonderful week ahead.
Thank you – you too
Your messages are always a beautiful way to start my week. Thank you Lady Carnarvon for your knowledge and insights.
Living with a family of coin collectors as I do, I find this history so very interesting. Thank you!
We have more!!!!
Good morning Lady Carnarvon.
I have wondered many times if there have been archeological digs on your grounds?
Thanks you for your wonderful blog.
That is going to be one of my projects …
How wonderful ,Fascinating
Look forward every Monday for your e-mail.
Thank you Jenny
Lady Carnarvon, A wonderful story and great photos. Thank you. Tomorrow is my surgery so I hope to be home early next week. I am already looking forward to your blog and everything you do. With Kind Regards, Cheryl
I am looking forward to hearing from you next week!
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
I love the “Keep calm and carry on” part of your blog this week! We all have gained “pounds” during the lockdown, but we will get rid of them eventually! I do enjoy your blog, and the glimpses you give us of life at Highclere!
This was a delightful way to start the week. How fascinating to find coins dating back to the time of the Romans. Here in California, where we tend to “ooh and ahh” and carefully protect “historic homes” when they achieve the ripe old age of 100, this puts everything in greater perspective.
We are lucky here!
Coins are so interesting! One never knows through whose hands they have passed, nor what they have bought, or sold, or bribed, or donated, or saved, or explained to a child what they meant.
My mother, born in 1908, loved to save American coins for me and the grandchildren. I spent several days researching their worth – old pennies, dimes, nickels, 50 cent pieces and silver dollars. Unfortunately, none were worth but pennies more than the original worth. I know she would have been disappointed! But it was fun doing the research.
Thank you for your time doing the same!
Money, such a cause of problems down the years. If only there was another way.
Pause for thought
Do you have “living on site” staff ? Thank you for opening your home to the show DOWNTON. A real home so this farm girl can live vicariously thru the show.
Many who work here live around here – it is a family
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I enjoyed todays blog very much. I have always been fascinated by old coins and their origins. How exciting it would be to find artifacts of all sorts at Highclere. Have you ever come across a “find” on the Highclere grounds or house?
The “pounds” have definitely been packed on these past few months….most unfortunate. I think we are all in the same boat.
Enjoy your day,
I think these coins are all finds..
Oh, I agree. Your coins are definitely finds. Somehow I missed that you found them. I hope you come across more artifacts about the grounds.
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
GOOD EVENING MILADY AND A MONDAY FAMILY,
I AM FINDING DIFFICULTIES ON THE SITE HERE IN BRAZIL TO MAKE A DONATION TO MSF . WHAT DO I DO ???
I HAVE BEEN FASCINATED BY ARCHEOLOGY SINCE I WAS A CHILD BY KING TUT. LAST WEEK I REVIEWED SEVERAL VIDEOS ON THE INTERNET ABOUT THE PHARAOH WHO WAS FOUND THANKS TO HOWARD CARTER AND LORD CARNARVON.
RIO CLARO – SP
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Most of my undergraduate courses for my “liberal arts” degree were in art history, including ancient art history.
I especially loved the classes on Egyptian art and associated cultural history, so today’s letter regarding the coins was of special interest!
What a Monday morning treat!
A P.S. perhaps: I certainly can emphasize with the “overload challenge.” Another weekly email that I receive is from a sports trainer. Useful advice for me: “Eliminating 500 calories a day through eating or exercising will equal losing a pound of weight a week.” Applying this information, I’ve lost 22 pounds to date, at about .4 pounds a day. My bathroom scale reports in tenths, which is a daily boost of encouragement that helps more than I would have thought. Best wishes for success in your own challenges!
What a diplomat you are. Times are changing, as they have done throughout history, and we must adapt to support our country and to be as healthy as we can be given the situation.
Thanks for the interesting and chuckling commentary! Having spent 26 years in Egypt, I found your exhibition truly interesting when I visited Highclere. As for the pandemic and the “pounds” accumulated, we jokingly say it has been correctly labeled “COVID-19”!
All best wishes from Lake Ridge, Virginia.
Looking for good pounds!!!
A Most interesting Blog Lady Fiona. The Coins really do give a sort of Snap Shot picture of the Time and Place when and where they were Minted.
There are more too!
Good morning Lady Carnarvon
I have a collection of coins from all over the world, some of which came down from my great great grandfather who was an avid buyer and collector. The ones I love the most are a Quarter of a farthing a Half Soverign and a proof collection of the Royal Ladies i.e. The Queen, Princess Anne, Lady Diana, The Duchess of York and Sophie Wessex which my father bought me as a Christmas Gift.
They may not be worth a lot of money but each one has a story I can relate to i.e. my fathers gift and I love the history as well. I am still waiting to own a really rare coin but that fanciful thought is a remote possibility and an even more remote probability. It doesn’t hurt to dream and enjoy all that I have.
Meanwhile the coins happily live in an old shoe box all in plastic sleeves ready to put in albums……one day.
they are a story – a moment of value
Throughout this pandemic, we have been able to count on the consistency of your Monday morning expressions of life and have enjoyed them so much. What is something that you consider a constant in your life?
I think it is the trees and the dogs .. I should probably mention my son and my husband …. maybe my sisters with their wonderful humour
Thank you so much for the interesting information. The history of the house and the Egyptians would be wonderful to see. I hope to be able to visit sometime!
Do you still have, or keep, the Egyptian textiles and papyrus that the 5th Earl brought back.
We do have various elements and I am researching all the time!
I really hope that we can go back to England next year. I collect Dollhouse Miniatures and you all have a wonderful show in London. My next stop would be the Castle. I loved it so much and we were a small group. I really enjoy reading your blog also. Good luck with the future years. Hope to see you soon.
I hope to see you soon too!
Fun and interesting!!!! Inflation is no fun. 🙂
Have a wonderful week and stay safe….
Bolingbrook, IL USA
I so look forward to your Blog on Mondays, with still being on furlough from my job I do enjoy a nice diversion!!! I had a moment of wondering where it was as it came in a little later than normal so was relieved to see it appear.
Cheers and enjoy your week
Thank you for the photo of the piper at the end~ As a piper myself, I’m always appreciative of others who play the instrument, and the ceremonial aspects involved.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I am always surprised to read the varied blogs you send out each Monday. Each uniquely discusses some area in your life from sows to fine art to archeology. Always fascinating! While looking over the included coin collection I find that I like the worn smooth ones best. I picture all those ancient hands touching, counting and placing in hefty leather pouches to tie to a waist belt to be spent for some wonderful thing (or maybe just a loaf of bread?)
My siblings and I discovered an old Costanoan Native American site on the ranch where we grew up in the Coastal Mountains in California. I was about ten years old the day I found a tiny perfect exquisite “bird” arrowhead chipped from coal-black obsidian – traded for undoubtedly, since no stone like that is natural in the area. I still have it.
Any news about having to shut down again with the new wave of Covid 19? I deeply hope you don’t have to……….
Anyway, thanks so much for your blog and keep healthy.
We are ok at the moment – we are also in the country which helps and so hoping to carry on in a small way ..
As an Englishman currently working in America, I am amused by the way Americans give tips to staff much more readily than we do in Britain. (I think its because we feel the Employer ought to be paying his staff’s salaries, not the customers!)
However, tipping began in London and there is a connection with our love of tea! I thought you might enjoy this interesting article I recently came across.
Thank you Jonathon
I look forward to your Monday morning chats. Always so interesting and I am amazed by the ideas and topics you write beautifully about. As always, thanks for the delightful read.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you so much for another interesting topic. As well as your blog I love reading the comments from your widespread readers (no pun intended!).
Old coins are fascinating and many are quite beautiful for their intricate images. I think we often take our modern coins for granted and don’t always consider the thought and skill that has gone into the designs on them.
Charles Dickens who used to be pictured on our UK £10 banknote gave us lots of advice in his novels about money such as not being greedy (Scrooge), living within our means (Mr Micawber), and that money doesn’t always buy happiness (Pip).
I look forward to reading your blog each week. Thank you again for taking our minds off these difficult times.
With best wishes to you and everyone at Highclere.
Thank you so much – the fact you take the time to comment means so much to me – otherwise I write into a blank world! I re-read some of Charles Dickens writing my Christmas at Highclere book and loved it – he was extraordinary and changed our attitudes – for the good. I think of it as money in and money out… the excess of credit is new phenomenon and a bank is not a friend it is a business.
Lady Carnarvon, you are by no means writing into a blank world. Even those of us (probably a majority of readers) who don’t comment, either because the things one wishes to say have already been said, or because of lack of time, enjoy your posts. I seldom comment–usually to ask a question–but I read your posts faithfully and keep them in my email until there are a good number of comments to read also.
On the subject of today’s post, the payment information from the ancient Egyptians is much like that of the American colonists. England firmly squashed the idea of colonies minting coins after an attempt or two by Massachusetts. There was an overly optimistic idea that colonists would acquire coins from Spanish and Portuguese traders. You can’t really blame them, since visitors from Europe still have trouble realizing the extent of even the Eastern Seaboard of this country. An elaborate system of barter, called “country pay,” sprang up and was used in conjunction with what was called “bills of credit” to get around the prohibition of printing money. One man’s blacksmithing work might be paid for by produce or (one of my favorites) “taking my wife and children to Long Island.”
The more things change. . . .
Thank you Pat! All noted
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your Monday blog and mini history lesson. I enjoyed reading it, albeit being a day tardy.
I liked all the photographs, especially the bag piper. A neighbor’s son plays the pipes, and I have always appreciated hearing the seeing the ceremony and pageantry involved with a performance.
Since March, there has been an alleged “national coin shortage” here in the United States. Its creation has begun the allowance of “rounding up”, with the difference being donated to a named charity(s). Certain toll roads are no longing accepting cash and/or coin payment, only electronic and online contactless payment.
I look forward to next week’s post.
Stay healthy and safe.
As a secondary school teacher, I have been back in the classroom this year in unusual circumstances, to say the least. The stress casued by all the changes can keep my spirits down from time to time, so your Monday posts are very welcome. They lift my spirits and provide me with an oasis of calm and happiness as I recall my visit to Highclere in 2017. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photographs.
Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada
what do you teach?
Thank you ever so much Lady Carnarvon for this article as well as the rest of them. I thoroughly enjoy reading these.
Dear Lady Carnarvaron,
Thank you very much for sharing so much about your wonderful home. I had the pleasure of spending a day there with my wife an daughter and we were amazed with all the history, and still trying to take in as much as possible.
There is, however, one thing I have not been able to find an answer to; what is the story behind the wolf door knob on the front door? Could you please enlighten me?
Thanks and hope to be able to come back again soon.
The Third Earl was a well informed classicist and it is I think a reference to Rome
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
This is wonderful. This issue along with all the others are delightful, to imagine the stories coins could tell passing from hand to hand through time could be quite interesting but possibly at times a little scary .
Thank You so much for doing this it really is a joy to read.
Rockaway Beach Ny
Thank you Robbie
Very interesting story. As an Egyptian, I feel gratefulforthis great discovery. I have seen the tomb and the treasuresin Egypt and they look out of this world. The drawingon the walls of the tomb looks like they have just painted. I was watching Downton Abby and I started thinking if that place was real! I am happy it is real and that there are people still living there from that family. Merry Christmas and happy new year
Merry Christmas to you