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


Khorezm Coins  --> Table 124

The coins of early medieval Khorezm have been studied in details by B.I. Vajnberg [Vajnberg, 1977] and they (together with the coins of the Samarkand Sogd from the VII-VIII c.) are the most developed chapters of the early medieval numismatics of Central Asia. That is why there is no need to describe them here in great details.

During the VII c. there was significant change in the iconography of the silver and copper emissions of Khorezm, as well as in their weight and facture of the coins. The change started with the group classified as G II by Vajnberg [Vajnberg, 1977. p. 60, 98] and the related to it copper issues, and it marked the beginning of the early medieval period of Khorezmian coin production and circulation. The distinctiveness of the Khorezmian mints, evident even in the ancient period, was not only preserved but became even more pronounced. One of the main reasons for this distinctiveness of the VII-VIII c. Khorezmian coins was that the local silver coins were not imitations Sassanian drachmas (as it was the case in the Bukhara and Samarkand Sogd, in Northern Tokharistan, etc.), but had their own, established Khorezmian iconographical types (an image of the King of Khorezm with a crown on the obverse, the so called Khorezmian rider on the reverse).

The chronological limits of the early medieval Khorezmian coin production definitely include the VII and VIII c. (the autonomous "pre-Muslim" mint there continued until the last quarter of the VIII c.), but its beginning was, probably, not at the end of the VI c. – the beginning of the VII c., but a little bit late. – In the systematised by Vajnberg picture for the V-VI cc. There are several coin series whose relatively and absolute chronologies need further clarifications [Vajnberg, 1977, p. 64].

Speaking about the coin numbers, the coins from the VII-VIII cc. represent approximately a third of all pre-Muslim Khorezmian coins known to us (Vajnberg cites 1417 specimens, 471 out of which belonged to the early medieval period) and are with a document place of origin – both from the right and left bank of Amu Darja. However, only several tens coins are with known stratigraphical positions (many coins were found simply on the surface).

The sequence of early medieval rulers of Khorezm (with the title "King-Lord", rendered by the Aramean heterograms MR’Y MLK’), as deduced from the coins, is only partially confirmed by the evidence from the written sources. Thus, king Bravik (Fravik), whose coins (groups G II and G II/1, G II/2) are dated to the VII c. on the basis of indirect evidence, most probably corresponds to king named Afrigu in the list of Khorezmian kings of al Biruni [Vajnberg, 1977. p. 59]. King Azkacvar-Chegan, during whose rule Khorezm was captured by Kutejba, was killed by the revolted people in 712 AD after the Arabs left. Vajnberg links this ruler to the copper coins of group G II [Vajnberg, 1977. p. 63, 91-92]. The latter are thus reliable dated and can be used as a base for further typological dating. The kings Shram (or Charam) and Kanishka (groups G III, G III/3, G III/4, G III/5, and G IV, G IV/7, G IV/8 correspondingly) are not mentioned in the written sources under these name. Their chronology is only hypothetical: typologically, the coins of Shram and Kanishka must precede the mints of king Savshan (groups G V, G V/9, G V/10), who is mentioned both by al Biruni and in the Chinese dynastic chronicles (as Shaoshifen’) for the years 751 and 762 AD (the date of his embassy to China). The rule and the mints of king Azkacvar-Abdallakh (group G VI) must be dated to the last quarter of the VIII c. As evident by the second name of his king, he accepted Islam. Some of his coins bear the names of Fadl and Dzha’far, written in Arabic [Vajnberg, 1977. p. 160. No 1154, 1157, 1158], which were interpreted by S.P. Tolstov as being the names of the Arab deputies of Khorasan – al Fadl bin Jah’a, al Barmeki (787-795 AD) and Dzha’far ibn Mukhammed (787-789 AD). This would specify the chronology of coins of Azkacvar-Abdallakh which bear these names. A whole sequence of other Arab names on the coins of Azkacvar-Abdallakh apparently helps to determine more exactly the dates of these mints. The dating of other Khorezmian coins series from the VII-VIII cc. still wait their solution on the basis of further representative stratigraphical distributions and combined finds with firmly dates coins in them.

The observation of the territorial distribution of the copper coins allowed Vajnberg to identify two groups of coppers – G 12 and G13 [Vajnberg. 1977. p. 63, 98], which circulated mainly on the left bank of Amu Darja in Khorezm – apparently, this was a local mint of the Kerder possession.

The coin circulation of the early medieval Khorezm, regardless of the rich numismatic material and detailed systematisation, is nevertheless poorly studied. In contrast to the ancient period, the VII-VIII centuries in Khorezm witness the same parallel minting of silver and copper, as it was in the other parts of Central Asia at that time. But there were Khorezmian peculiarities in the iconographical and typological relations of the coppers to the silver coins. The weight of the silver coins constantly dropped during the VII-VIII c.: from 5.4-5.8 g. for the coins of Bravik (Fravik) and 4.3-4.8 g. for the coins of Shram, to 1.3-1.6 g. for the coins of Azkacvar-Abdallakh in the last quarter of the VIII c. [Vajnberg, 1977. Table XIV].

Unfortunately, there are no published data about the proper Arab coins from Khorezm, but it seems that the sharp increase in the weight of the silver coins during the second half of the VIII c. was directly linked to the final subjugation of Khorezm by the Arabs and to the transformation of the Khorezmian silver coins into being "conventional" silvers and destined for the internal markets alone. This might explain the absence of copper emissions of Azkacvar-Abdallakh – it was his silver coins themselves which now served as a token coinage within a limited area of circulation (the silver circulation started to be served by full value Aran dirhams). In general, the "detached economy" of Khorezm, mentioned by Vajnberg, could be explained by the break between the silver value of the coins and their exchange rates [Vajnberg, 1977. p. 100].

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