Featured Sogdian AE Cash imitation along the Silk Road, Ferghana Valley c. 7th or 8th Century

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by TuckHard, Oct 23, 2019.

  1. TuckHard

    TuckHard Well-Known Member

    Hello everyone! I wanted to share here my lovely AE Cash imitation from the Central Asian Silk Road.
    Silk Road Coin.jpg
    AE Cash | 15/16mm | 1.19g
    Tutuks of Ferghana
    7th and 8th Centuries (Hartill possibly 627-649 AD)
    Ref.: Smirnova 1445, Hartill GCC 4.28
    Cf. Zeno 77707, 76210, 51129, 5463, or 36668

    Stephen Album reference;
    These coins are part of a wider series of mostly anonymous AE cash coins that were minted and circulated around the Central Asian valleys where trade flourished from Tang Dynasty China of the East to the Byzantines and greater Europe to the West. The many peoples and kingdoms along the way were able to find great wealth in facilitating the trade and there were incredible cultural pressures and interconnection that had not yet been seen in the Ferghana Valley region, modern day Uzbekistan with bits of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. See the excellent map below, found on Behance thanks to Eric Olason.

    Map of Ferghana Valley.png

    At the time these coins were minted the area was ruled by the Sogdians, a network of affiliated city-states in Central Asia. In Chapter 4 of A Guide to Cash Coins Hartill writes a Chinese quote from the time; "They are very good at trading, love profit, and go abroad at the age of twenty. They are everywhere profit is to be found".

    The Sogdians were the last rulers of the area before the Arab Muslim conquest by the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates. The Sogdians spoke a unique language that has since evolved into the Yaghnobi language which is spoken by the Yaghnobi ethnic group, the survivors of the Sogdians. Wikipedia puts their numbers at around 25,000. Another people group of the area was the Turks, an ethnic population that had long been involved in the region and was intermarried into the local population.

    Hartill places these Sogdian script AE cash coins of Ferghana to 627-649 AD during the time of Turk rule of Ferghana. I was unable to find many details about the Turk rule, but here is what I found.
    a) Turkish academic encyclopedia İslâm Ansiklopedisi says the ruler "Kan Bagatur" siezed power of Ferghana from 627-649 AD. It says Kan Bagatur was a decendant of the Göktürks, corroborating Hartill's point on the Turk rule. I was unable to find anymore information on Kan Bagatur but Bagatur is a traditional title used in the region.
    b) Turkish academic article The Influence of the Chinese coinage over the Pre-Islamic Coins of Central Asia by Dr. Gaybullah Babayar states that according to Chinese records, during the time period 627-649 AD one of the Western Göktürks, "Kan Mo-he-du" or Tun Bahadur, had the ruler of Ferghana, "Ki-pi-'yi", killed. After Ki-pi-'yi was dead, the administration of Ferghana was taken over by "Aşena Shu-ni’nin".

    I've also been unable to find much more about these rulers but putting these all together, it seems there was a Turkish ruler of the Western Göktürks called Kan Bagatur who seized Ferghana from Ki-pi-'yi and ruled the region from 627-649 AD. Hartill suggests that these coins were first issued under this Kan Bagatur, which lines up on the timeline as the early Sogdian script cash coins were known to have borrowed from the newly released Tang Dynasty Chinese cash that read Kai Yuan Tong Bao. These Kai Yuan coins were first produced in 621 AD and quickly poured from Chinese mints into wide circulation, both in China and with it's neighboring states. The Sogdians were one of the first groups along the Silk Road headed West so they were likely most influenced by the Kai Yuan. Below is my Early Type Kai Yuan.

    621-718 AD Cash Kai Yuan Tong Bao Early Type H#14.2 24.5mm 3.09g Combined.jpg
    AE Cash | 24.5mm | 3.09g
    Inaugural Currency
    Obv.: Kai Yuan Tong Bao (t-b-r-l)
    Rev.: Blank
    Tang Dynasty, China
    Early Type, 621-718 AD
    Ref.: Hartill 14.2

    Witnessing the flood of these copper cash headed West along the Silk Road, the Sogdians were quick to emulate the coins with some even copying the majority of the Chinese inscriptions. The coins shifted from Chinese lettering to full Sogdian script, which is the case with my piece.

    There are two catalog references for my coin that I've been able to find.

    1) Catalog of Sogdian Coins: Bronze (СВОДНЫЙ КАТАЛОГ СОГДИЙСКИХ МОНЕТ БРОНЗА by Olga Smirnova. She lists it as #1445 and attempts to translate the Sogdian as 'lpw(?) γ'γ'n twtwy. She points to the runic character "ash" to the right. Smirnova mentions the poor casting quality with the casting sprue being intact. She mentions an excavation by V. A. Bulatova of the ancient city of Kuva in Ferghana (today in Uzbekistan).
    Smirnova's entire book is available (in Russian) for non-commercial download thanks to the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. Here is the download link.

    Below is my likely-poorly translated version of Smirnova's entry;
    Tutuks of Ferghana.png

    2) A Guide to Cash Coins by David Hartill. He shows this coin in the Sogdian Script chapter as number 4.28. Hartill reads the Sogdian as alpw(?) gagan twtwg and again mentions the runic character "ash". The translation is given, shakily if so, as "?? Khagan of? Tutuks. Another member in a Facebook group weighed in and helped. He said that gagan translates to khagan (khan for short) which was a very common ruler title for the time and region. The twtwg is translated as tutuk, which has a debated meaning. The member said that Denis Sinor, linguist, argues that tutuk was a reigional Turkic title of Chinese origin. This would further demonstrate credibility towards Hartill's 627-649 AD date range for the coins.

    Below is the entry in Hartill's A Guide to Cash Coins;
    2019-10-22 16.59.55.jpg
    The Sogdian script cash coins are a truly fascinating and widely variable coinage. Some of the issues even incorporated themes and styles from the other direction of trade, the Sasanian Empire of Persia. I'd like to wrap this up with a call for any other examples of Silk Road coinage, either from merchant states like mine or larger entities. Lastly, I wanted to share this nice selection of the Sogdian coinage. These pages are found in The Influence of the Chinese coinage over the Pre-Islamic Coins of Central Asia by Dr. Gaybullah Babayar. Number 19 on page 1 is my coin!​

    Part 1.jpg Part 2.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
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  3. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    I saw your coin on Reddit. Is this a collecting area for you?

    I have a Sogdian cash coin in my collection.

    AE coin (22 mm., 3.8 gram) from Eastern Sogdiana in Central Asia (on the territory of modern day Uzbekistan) of king Gurek (710(?)-738 A.D.).
    Obverse: Sogdian legend wr'kk mlk "Ishkhid Gurek (Urak)" around the square hole.
    Reverse: Tamghas on both sides of the square hole.
    Cataloged in O. Smirnova “Catalog of Sogdian Coins …”, as #359 and in http://sogdcoins.narod.ru as ES19. cf. Central Asia » Soghd » Samarqand » Ikhshids of Samarqand » Hirak/Gurak
    Note: See Gurek for more info on Gurek

    By the way, O. Smirnova is Olga Smirnova, a "she" not a "he".
  4. TuckHard

    TuckHard Well-Known Member

    I love your example! It looks to be in great condition. I'm actually not especially focuses on this area but I found this coin and the details behind the Sogdian cash to be just fascinating while researching so I decided to pull the information together and post this. My main study focus is the tin coinage from Southeast Asia, notable Malay and the archipelago. You could call it the Maritime Silk Road for sure. Also thanks for the note about Smirnova, I'll fix that!
  5. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    Can I ask you a question about my Malay cash coin?

    16mm, 0.28 grams. Frank Robinson #2.

    Numista and a dealer I respect put this as a Chinese client kingdom in Sumatra, 998-1003 AD or slightly later. https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces108400.html

    Zeno calls it "Fisheye 咸平元寳 xian-ping yuan-bao" and claims it was made by the Dutch (1595-1645)!

    What is the story?
  6. TuckHard

    TuckHard Well-Known Member

    Excellent question and I'm glad you asked it; these small tin imitations are frequently attributed to the Srivijaya Empire of Sumatra with the date of 998-1003 AD but that identification appears to be false. Coinage had yet to be widespread in Sumatra and the Srivijaya never had a proper coinage apart from some rarer precious metal pieces (gold tahil and silver massa). Even those are thought to be from other kingdoms or subordinate kingdoms rather than the Srivijaya.

    These coins were rather local tin imitation coins that were very common place in Sumatra. The islands had used Chinese cash (mostly Northern Song) for centuries, ever since the Majapahit Empire first started importing the copper cash into Java and Sumatra sometime in the 1300s. After hundreds of years and a Chinese ban on export of copper coins, the local coins began to dry up and there was a shortage in the 16th and 17th centuries.

    The local base coinage in the region is tin, rather than copper, so the counterfeit coins were cast in debased tin instead. These Xian Ping Yuan Bao coins were certainly minted during this time. Zeno tends to put it from late 1500s - 1640s which is reasonable to me. Hartill writes in A Guide to Cash Coins and places them very generally c. 1590-1620. Hartill then mentions the Chinqeo/Quanzhou mint in China as a possible alternative to the Sumatra origination theory, but I don't think this holds up well. As far as I know, all of the examples come from the islands, and in particular, the Musi River of Palembang, Sumatra.

    For my personal records I use this identification.

    1640 Clump 2x.jpg
    Tin Cash Imitation | Fossil of two pieces
    c. 1640s
    Xian Ping Yuan Bao
    Crude local imitation
    Palembang, Sumatra

    I also wanted to point out that your King Gurek coin is listed as #9 on the first page of my post.
  7. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    Sogdia, oh Sogdia... you are on to one of my favorite areas. Only a few days ago I posted a like coin because Chinese numismatics slap-bang started to take me in. I didn't do much about Sogdian cash, so far, but I've been using the nice Russian-English book by Shagalov & Kuznetsov a lot for my Chach oasis collection of Sogdian coins.

    That's a nice overview you show. Of your Resim I I seem to have coins nr. 1 and 9, and from Resim II the nrs. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 19, 23, 28 (so endearing, two little Senmurvs playing with each other), 31, 32 and 33.
    Some random photos of favorite coins:

    5619 Soghd 250.jpg

    5643 CH Ruttpir kl.jpg
    5685 SO ct.jpg
    5688 Chach fire altar.jpg
  8. TuckHard

    TuckHard Well-Known Member

    Wow those are some great pieces! Thank you for sharing! Some of the portrait coins are so interesting and the design is very attractive. I'd love to put together a more complete set in the future.
    Pellinore likes this.
  9. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Nice coins and great write up, @TuckHard . Nice info.

    I have only a few from the Silk Road...


    Sogdiana silk road 700-800 CE AE Cash Tamga Samitan R
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
  10. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Great write up and thank you for the links @TuckHard. Sogdiana is one of my minor collecting areas. I haven't given much time to properly attribute these coins, unfortunately. But here are a few representative coins in my collection:

    Sogdiana, Principality of Samitan: Nanaiabiat Samidanian (ca. 700-800 AD) AE Cash (Fedorov: pl. 24, 1-6)

    Obv: Sogdian legend around square hole, which can be translated as 'Nanaiabiat Samidanian', Samidan being the town's name, Nanaiabiat the ruler.
    Rev: Tamgha each side of square hole. The identical tamghas are in the form of a semi-circle on a pedestal; small annulet in semi-circle.


    Sogdiana, Turgesh Kaqanate: Wahshutawa (8th c.) AE Cash (Kamyshev-21)

    Obv: Sogdian legend xwt' w'xswt'wy pny (coin of the king Vahshutava)
    Rev: Tamgha, "P" & Yuan


    Sogdiana, Semirech'e: Proto-Qarakhanid (10th c.) AE Cash (Kamyshev-49)

    Obv: Legend in Kufic Arabic - Mulk-Aram-Yinal-Chig
    Rev: Blank


    Eastern Sogdiana, Ikhshids of Samarqand: Imitation of Gurak (710-738) AE Cash (Smirnova-400)

    There coins are classified differently between Smirnova and Akhunbabaev. Smirnova indicates that these are imitation coins of Gurak and hence read the inscription as "wr`kk MLK". However, Akhunbabaev attributed these coins to Divashtish, ruler of Penjikent. In this case, the inscription is read as "prykk MLK" which indicates Afrig Ikhshid. The tamgha is the same as Tukaspadak's and Tarkhun's and differing from the tamgha of Gurak.

  11. TuckHard

    TuckHard Well-Known Member

    Now that's a collection! Those are all very very nice coins, I'm in love with the last one. Thanks for sharing!
    Quant.Geek and Pellinore like this.
  12. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    A few more...

    Eastern Sogdiana, Samarqand: Anonymous (ca. 5th-6th Century CE) AE Unit (Smirnova-1)

    Obv: Mustachioed bust 3/4 facing, wearing long earrings; Wide border
    Rev: Tamgha of Samarqand; Wide border


    Eastern Sogdiana: Gurak (710-738) AE Unit (Smirnova-359) Obv: Tamghas on both sides of the square hole
    Rev: Sogdian legend Ishkhid Gurak (Urak) around the square hole


    Western Sogdiana: King Asbar (3rd - 6th Century AD) AE Drachm

    Obv: Portrait of ruler facing right
    Rev: Bukharan tamgha arranged as a firealtar, sogdian legend on both sides: " xwβ ´sbr"

  13. TuckHard

    TuckHard Well-Known Member

    Stunning examples!! Thank you for sharing! That last one is an interesting issue. I also have several coins from King Asbar, unfortunately they are all very bad quality and most suffering from Bronze Disease.

    Asbar Combined.jpg
    What's interesting about these is that they are attributed to the Principality of Chaghaniyan (al-Saghaniyan) on Numista and given the date 632-790 AD. Wikipedia puts the date of the independent Chaghaniyan Kingdom as "early 7th-century to the late 8th-century".

    Most other numismatic sources don't make a specific attribution to the Principality of Chaghaniyan; and many use wider date ranges such as c. 5th-9th century.

    After looking at this map of Transoxiana on Wikipedia, the Chaghaniyan (Saghaniyan on this map) region looks to be in the northern portion of Ferghana, quite a distance from Bukhara. With such localized power of the regional powers it seems unlikely that an independent Chaghaniyan could wield rule over Bukhara long enough to make a full mintage series.

    Quick edit: Something interesting about these Asbar coins are that they are scyphate! That means they are cup-shaped, similar to the Byzantine trachy coins.
  14. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    The sogdian cash pieces showed up fairly late in Sogdian coinage history, after the Chinese incursion.

    Sogdian coinage began for the most part as local imitations of Alex III pieces minted in the aftermath of his death. Then imitations of Seluekid coinage appeared around 300-280 and these became the foundation of Samarkand coinage prototypes. It wasn't until the 3rd century ad interrupted by Yue Chi coinage.

    S&K covers the period of 3-7th century copper "greek" coinage well. I have nearly a complete S&K collection. You also have coins of Kwarezm, southern. Sogdia, etc. Smirnova covers more than S&K, but in Russian and hard to find. There are a myriad of other titles I own, but those are the basics for copper coins of this era.

    It's a very complex, complicated history.
  15. TuckHard

    TuckHard Well-Known Member

    I'd love to see any examples! The Central Asian pieces around this area really seem to be very comprehensive and incorporating a lot of influences from neighbors. I'd love to see any examples you had!

    Just wanted to share Hartill's entry in A Guide to Cash Coins with you!

    Hartill GCC 4.9
    Eastern Sogdia - Samarkand
    King Ghurak | 710-738 AD
    Obv.: awrakk MLKa (King [Gh]urak)
    Rev.: Left tamgha, right tamgha of Samarkand facing right
    Federov 16, Smirnova 359
    Hartill mentions that Ghurak took power in 710 AD after the previous ruler, Turkhun, was dethroned and imprisoned.

    This coin interestingly isn't listed in Hartill's A Guide to Cash Coins.

    This one is the same as @Alegandron's above, it isn't listed by Hartill.

    Hartill GCC 4.100
    Semirechye - Turgesh Khaganate
    King Vahshutava | 704-766 AD
    Obv.: xwt axaxswtawy pny (King Vahshutava's coin)
    Rev.: Turgesh tamgha, left tamgha in the shape of runic letter r (not p, the Russian form of r), below Chinese yuan
    Kam 21
    Hartill mentions that these coins were in circulation past 766 AD and says they have "general[ly] good workmanship"; the alloy ranges from 80-90% copper with an average weight of 5g, size of 25mm.

    Hartill GCC 4.117
    Anonymous | Mid 10th Century
    Obv.: In Kufic, Malik aram yinal chig (clockwise, possibly: The king that is great under Heaven)
    Rev.: Plain
    Kam 49
    Hartill GCC 4.10
    See Hartill's explanation below
    Obv.: awrakk MLKa (King [Gh]urak)
    Rev.: Left tamgha, right tamgha of Samarkand facing right
    Smirnova 400​

    Hartill GCC 4.9
    Eastern Sogdia - Samarkand
    King Ghurak | 710-738 AD
    Obv.: awrakk MLKa (King [Gh]urak)
    Rev.: Left tamgha, right tamgha of Samarkand facing right
    Federov 16, Smirnova 359

    IMG_3142.jpg IMG_3143.jpg IMG_3144.jpg IMG_3145.jpg
  16. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Alegandron likes this.
  17. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    What a great post & thread - I've only now had time to have a thorough look through it. Thanks for the link to the Smirnova book, I see they have some other neat coin books available too.

    As a generalist collector I'm trying to get a representative sampling of coins from the area over its long history. Here's some of what I have so far:

    Screen Shot 2019-10-25 at 2.13.47 PM.jpg
    Tetradrachm, based on a Bactrian issue of Euthydemos, c. 100 BCE. Yuezhi?

    Screen Shot 2019-10-25 at 5.46.26 PM.jpg
    AR obol, Uncertain date, maybe c. 1-100 CE?, Samarqand area, also ultimately derived from a Seleukid model. 1.00g, 16mm. Slightly scyphate.

    Screen Shot 2019-10-25 at 2.14.08 PM.jpg
    AR obol, c. 200-300 CE (?), Bust/archer type, also derived from a Seleukid model.

    Screen Shot 2019-10-25 at 2.14.20 PM.jpg
    Asbar, Bukhara, c. 3rd-6th c. CE, prior to Gökturk overlordship

    Screen Shot 2019-10-25 at 2.13.25 PM.jpg
    Samarqand: Tarkhun (c. 700-710)

    Screen Shot 2019-10-25 at 2.14.34 PM.jpg
    Bukhara: Bukhar-Hudat in the name of the Abbasid caliph al-Mahdhi (775-85)

    Screen Shot 2019-10-25 at 5.45.37 PM.jpg
    Samanid: Isma'il ibn Ahmad (892-907), dated AH 280 (893-4), Samarqand mint
  18. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter


    Sogdiana - Hyrcodes 3rd-4thCE AR Scyphate Obol or Reduced Drachm 12mm 0.56g Bukhara mint Male-Deity BMC Baktria p118
  19. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter


    Islamic Ghorids of Ghazna AE Jital Muhammad Sam Mu'izz al-Din AH 567-602 - AD 1171-1206
  20. Muzyck

    Muzyck I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a biscuit today.

    My Semireche Kai Yuan imitation

    Senireche Kai Yuan imitation B.jpg
  21. Muzyck

    Muzyck I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a biscuit today.

    Soghd, Shishpir ca. 630-645. Similar to Zeno #6875

    SAMARKAND Shishpir ca. 630-645 AE cash obv.jpg
    SAMARKAND Shishpir ca. 630-645 AE cash rev.jpg
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