Central Asia in the Early Middle Ages,
Coins of the regions

Bukhara Sogd

Bukhara Sogd Coins  --> Table 118, Table 119

The earliest period of coin minting of this region, comprising the lower course of the river Zeravshan, ended with the ceasing of the production of Early Sogdian imitations of the tetradrachmas of Euthydemos, his last series : obverse – ruler with tiara, reverse – "Heracles" on a semicircular omphalos [Zejmal’, E., 1978. Table II, 12]. Their typological similarities with the Samarkand coins with archers (which were minted until the end of the V c. or the beginning of the VI c., see below) allows to relate them chronologically and to estimate that their production ceased at the end of the IV-V c.

Two not numerous groups of coins, which apparently were produced in silver (Zejmal’ E., 1978, Table V, 1, 2] and in copper [Zejmal’ E., 1978, Table V, 3, 4] show the influence of the Sassanian mints (and the Sassanian Kushanshakhs in particular) and must be dated to the end of the IV-V c. Further investigations into their stratigraphical distribution would help specify their dates as well as elucidate their relation with the latest "Girkod" coins.

The Bukhara Sogd produced the first Sogdian imitations if the Sassanian drachmas of Varakhran V (421-439 AD), which became known in the literature as "Bukharkhudat" coins [Lerch, 1879; Lerkh, 1909]. There were serious disagreements between the researchers about the time of the first imitations [Smirnova, 1963, p. 39-40, note 119; Davidovich, Zejmal’, 1980, p. 75]. Those, who dated the earliest "Bukharkhudat" coins to the V c. relied only on the dates of the prototype – the drachmas of Varakhran V (421-439 AD), as well as on a general, not going into the details analysis of the Sogdian legend on the "Bukharkhudat" coins with the palaeographical peculiarities of the Sogdian "old scripts" [the opinion of V.B. Hening; Frye, 1949, p. 26]. The other dating of the coins to the VII c. was based [Lerkh, 1909; Walker, 1941] on the information of Nershakhi that at the time of Abu Bakr (632-634 AD) the Bukharkhudat of Kan was the first to mint silver coins in Bukhara. The attempts to combine the two views would need the introduction of a hiatus in the minting, which was not attested either Typologically, or paleographically, or archaeologically [Smirnova, 1963. p. 39].

Significant insights into the start of the "Bukharkhudat" series are provided by the fact that their prototype was not the drachmas of Varakhran V in general, but particularly those of the close to Bukhara mint of Merv, from the last years of Varakhran V when, according to Loginov and Nikitin, Merv provided around half of all drachmas of the Sassanian empire. When the production at Merv stopped (from the 40’s of the V c. till the 20’s of the VI c.), only these drachmas of Varakhran V could massively enter Bukhara and they were still in circulation. If indeed Merv came under the Hephthalites after the 80’s of the V c., they stroke silver imitations of the drachmas of Varakhran V with a deformed Pahlavi legend or a completely unreadable imitation of this legend {Table 118, 3}. But these coins did not serve as prototypes for the Bukhara imitations – the early series of the Bukhara imitations follow more closely the Pahlavi legend.

Hephthalite imitations of the Varakhran drachmas also reached the oasis of Bukhara, it is evident by the their examples, countermarked apparently in Bukhara with the characteristic symbol-tamga {Table 118, 4} which is also present on the copper coins of Bukhara Sogd, already as an independent element. Thus, there are no reasons to lower the start of the "Bukharkhudat" series to the time of the Varakhran V. Their production could have started in the second half of the V c,, at the beginning of the VI c. or after. It is possible that the resuming of the intensive Sassanian coin production at Merv under Kavad I (the second decade of the VI c.) was accompanied – because of an official ban or because of the market preferences, by the pushing of the Varakhran drachmas and all its imitations out of the Merv oasis. If the influx of these drachmas to Bukhara is connected with this event, then the start of the "Bukharkhudat" coinage was as late as after the second decade of the VI c.

The relative chronology of the Bukhara emissions copying the drachmas of Varakhran V is not known in details yet. The earliest series is certainly that with an unreadable Hephthalite legend and a Bukhara symbol-tamga {Table 118, 4}. Typologically and chronologically close to it is the series with the same Bukhara tamga but with a Sogdian legend {Table 118, 5}. The typological classification of the next series is complicated by the unusual for Central Asia iconographic and palaeographic stability, although the ongoing process of schematisation on the reverse is evident {Table 118, 6-8}. For now there are no reliable archaeological and stratigraphical data to determine the earliest series and the order of the "Bukharkhudat" series. Since the second half of the VII c. and the beginning of the VIII c. similar coins started to be produced not only in the Bukhara Sogd but in other places including the Samarkand Sogd as well (Zejmal’, 1985. p. 254, N 638 – with the name of the Sogdian king of Turgar, 40’s of the VIII c.) which additionally complicates the picture. The detailed typological analysis of Davidovich allowed him to identify two centres of the "Bukharkhudat" series – Samarkand and Chach-Ilak [Davidovich, 1979. p. 106, 115].

The properly "Bukharkhudat" coins with Sogdian legends remain unresearched. Their dating from archaeological studies remains were broad – from the VI c. (or the end of V c.) till the mid-VIII c. From the mid-VIII c., while still retaining the general iconographical representation, Arabian legends started to appear {Table 118, 12-14}, the silver content dropped significantly which turned them into "black dirhams". The latter, regardless of their "pre-Muslim" appearance, already belong to the next medieval period and were minted until the XII or the beginning of the XIII c.

The Bukhara drachmas from the VI – mid-VIII c. of the type of Varakhran V were exactly these silver coin to which were related the numerous and quite varied copper coins, minted in the various centres of the Bukhara Sogd. Apparently, the copper Bukhara scyphates with an altar on the reverse {Table 119, 5-10} were accepted in the whole region. The proposed for them date of III-IV cc. [Javich, 1947. p. 218; Shishkin, 1963. p. 60] nowadays look unjustifiably early, as is the case with the V c. date for the "Bukharkhudat" coins [Zejmal’, 1978. p. 210]. More plausible looks the proposition that the Bukhara copper coins were issued as an exchange coins in parallel to the silver "Bukharkhudat" drachmas (from the start of their minting till the second quarter or the mid-VII c.) . This idea could be tested by the stratigraphical distributions of the Bukhara copper coins with altars. However until now there is not enough information of this kind – the excavated in the Bukhara oasis sites (Bukhara, Varakhsha, Pajkend, etc.) did not possess well stratified early medieval layers similar to these of Pendzhikent.

The above proposition that the copper Bukhara coins with an altar were issued in the VI – the second quarter of the VII c. in parallel to the "Bukharkhudat" silver is in conflict with the views of Fuye [Fuye, 1926, pp. 144-145], according to whom the former were silver-plated. But not a single reliable case of silver plating of the Bukhara copper coins has been registered.

The cast copper coins with a hole in the centre of the Chinese types were apparently issued by some of the Bukhara (and Samarkand) centres not earlier than the second quarter of the VII c. {Table 119, 15-17}. They as well as those from the Samarkand Sogd and Northern Tokharistan followed the early Tan types with the legend "kaj juan tun bao" (the hieroglyphs of the prototype are reproduced on one of the sides). Their place of issuing is indicated by the "Bukhara" symbols on the reverse – the same as that on the "Bukharkhudat" drachmas and on the reverse of some coppers, but the Bukhara copper coins of the Chinese type have no Sogdian legends [Smirnova, 1981. pp. 316-318]. Their belonging to the emissions of the Bukhara Sogd is attested by the finds in Varakhsha [Urmanova, 1956. p. 132 sq.], in Pajkend and elsewhere in the region.

Another group of coins of the Chinese type, also classified as of Bukhara Sogd provenance, is known only from finds in Pendzhikent and its localisation is still unsettled [Smirnova, 1981. pp. 318-323].

Coins of the Chinese type (with a square hole in the centre) were also produced by other centres of the Bukhara Sogd, in particular in Pajkend {Table 119, 18, 19}. It seems both the Bukhara and the provincial issues of such coins were roughly coeval, from the third quarter of the VII c. and that they were minted for not so long as in Northern Tokharistan or in the Samarkand Sogd.

The coins of Bukhara Sogd with a camel on the obverse, and on the reverse – a fire altar {Table 119, 20-24} or a Sogdian legend {Table 199, 25} belong to the last quarter – the beginning of the VIII c. The attempts [Shishkin, 1963. p. 63] to date them on the basis on the altar’s appearance alone, outside of their numismatic and archaeological context, led to an unjustifiably early dates (III – the beginning of the IV c.]. This series and its dating is not specially discussed in the "Summary catalogue of the Sogdian coins" of O.I. Smirnova. They were not included in the catalogue part [Smirnova, 1981. pp. 28-30]. The coins with a Sogdian legend on the reverse [Smirnova, 1981. pp. 312-313] and the coins with a square hole and a legend, according to Smirnova [Smirnova, 1981. pp. 314-315] of Farnbag, are classified as belonging to the group of early coins of the Western Sogd, which precede the Bukhara coins of the Chinese type with the legend "kaj juan tun bao" on the obverse and a Bukhara symbol on the reverse. A more definitive dating that those of Shishkin and Smirnova is given by Musakaeva [Musakaeva, 1985. p. 82] – IV-V c., but again there is no detailed argumentation. The archaeological-stratigraphical data for the coins with a camel reveal a rather later date – from the last quarter of the VII c. to the beginning of the VIII c., but the chronological frame for this series is still uncertain.

The local emissions issued by the various provincial centres of the Bukhara Sogd are known much worse that the all-Bukhara Sogd mints. The Chinese type coins at Pajkend were already mentioned {Table 119, 18, 19}. The resumed since 1982 regular excavations at Pajkend have been also producing other local series but as a rule they were in poor preservation state and remained unpublished.

Particularly must be noted the series of small coppers with a schematic representation of a human figure on the obverse (according to Smirnova – a "runic-like symbol") and an Arabic legend on the reverse [Smirnova, 1981. pp. 418-419. No 1671-1675], assigned by her to Pajkend. Their issuing apparently started after the 20’s of the VIII c. In one of the series in the Arabic legend on the reverse indicated the relation of these coppers to the silver dirhams – "120 in the dirham" [Smirnova, 1981. pp. 418-419]. Other similar legends ("60 in the dirham") are also attested in other Central Asian coppers from the VIII c. with unidentified place of origin [Smirnova, 1981. pp. 420-421].

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