Iberic Traders Token from New York

Written by Barry Fell:

The inscribed stone tablet reported by Don Eckler is written in the south Iberic alphabet, matching the tables published by Diringer. (The Alphabet, 1968, Vol.2, p. 174), save only that one triangular sign is unfamiliar. The language is, as expected, the Arabic-related Iberic, but in order to produce a recognizable word from the upper row, where the triangular symbol occurs, it is necessary to treat the triangular letter as a B. To determine whether such an equation is permissible, I searched the known coin inscriptions of the southern Iberic principalities, and was fairly successful in finding a possible match in the coinage of the ancient city of Abdera, located in what is now modern Granada. Two example of Abderan coins are shown here, after A. Heiss, Atlas of Ancient Coins of Spain, Pl. XLV. The Iberic letters read from left to right, and spell I-B-D-R-I and I-B-D-R-I-R respectively. Whereas the deltoid D has a dot beneath it, the Deltoid B lacks the dot. Substituting now B for the double triangle sign on the tablet we obtain T-T-B-T for the first line, and W-c-T Sh-P for the second line. These match Arabic meaning: “Confirmation: I have pledged to pay in full”

It may be assumed that Iberian traders either made such tokens while here in America, or had them prepared beforehand, in Spain. In either case their purpose was evidently to give to Amerind customers in the event that the trader had run out of acceptable trade items, and was required to return to Spain to renew his stocks. These tokens speak of a mutual trust between the trading partners, and suggest that each trader was well known to his Amerind customers. However, I suspect that the peculiar double triangle was a deliberate recognition mark, so that the trader could identify his own tokens, like moneyer’s marks on medieval coins, so the King could recognize any moneyer who was striking defective coins.