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

Northern Tokharistan

Northern Tokharistan Coins  --> Table 120, Table 121

The beginning of the early medieval period of coin circulation in the Northern Tokharistan (the southern part of modern Tadzhikistan and Uzbekistan) was connected, as in the case with the Bukhara Sogd, with the wide spread of silver coins of the Sassanian type in combination with copper coins of a more restricted, local territories of distribution.

The coin circulation of Northern Tokharistan in the ancient times was for centuries under the significant influence of the Kushan monetary system (golden coins with a value of 2 denarii, 1 denarius and ¼ denarius, and copper "tetradrachmas" and "drachmas"), but towards the end of the IV c. there were in circulation not so many Kushan coppers but their imitations in numerous quantities [Zejmal’, 1983. pp. 141-256]. There was a short period (last quarter of the IV c. – the beginning of the V c.) of penetration on right bank of Amu Darja (especially in the areas next to the river) of coins of the Sassanian Kushanshakhs, who temporarily occupied this region [Zejmal’, 1983. pp. 257-268]. The mass influx in Northern Tokharistan of these coins marks the transitional period between the ancient and early medieval coin circulation.

The I wide spread of silver coins of the Sassanian type in Northern Tokharistan started in the V c. and is connected with the fierce struggle between Sassanian Iran and the Hephthalite tribal union for dominance over the lands of the former Kushans in Tokharistan. The area of this struggle as it has been established now was to the south of Amu Darja [Marshak, 1971], although repercussions of it reached Northern Tokharistan. The victory of the Hephthalites and the loss by the Sassanians of all their eastern possessions was of decisive importance for the future of the lands on the right bank of Amu Darja. After the Sassanian Shakh Peroz (459-484 AD) fell in the hands of the Hephthalites in the 60’s of the V c., Iran had to pay an enormous ransom in silver drachmas. The information in the primary sources, although of legendary proportions and with apparent inaccuracies in describing the events, are still confirmed by the numerous finds of Peroz’s drachmas, including in Northern Tokharistan [Zejmal’, 1965. p. 255. No 642, 643] where they (and their later imitations) predominate in comparison to the other Sassanian drachmas. Thus, the 60’s-70’s of the V c. are the time of a mass influx of Sassanian silver (drachmas of Peroz) in Northern Tokharistan), and the formation of the early medieval monetary circulation there occurred a little bit later – in the last quarter of the V c. – the beginning of the VI c., that is approximately simultaneously (or a little bit earlier) than the early medieval monetary circulation in the Bukhara Sogd (based on imitations of drachmas of Varakhran V). However in Northern Tokharistan the silver coins of the Sassanian type were issued not in uniform series of a local type (such as the "Bukharkhudat" emissions), but in the form of imitations of drachmas of Peroz (and after that, apparently, of other Sassanian rulers). For now there is no certainty that all numerous imitations of Sassanian drachmas in circulation in Northern Tokharistan, were locally produced: some part of them could have been minted to the south of Amu Darja. But in contrast to the "barbaric imitations" of the ancient times, all early medieval imitations of the Sassanian drachmas were produced from a good silver, which defined there value.

The majority of imitations of Peroz’s drachmas from the southern regions of Tadzhikistan and Uzbekistan are marked with special countermarks belonging to three groups: 1) countermarks containing legends in the ancient Bactrian cursive script [Zejmal’, 1985. p. 255. No 644-646]; 2) countermarks containing legends in Sogdian script denoting names, titles, and in one case (attested in more than 400 copies) – with indication of the geographical or the political identity of the countermark – "Tokharian" [Zejmal’, 1985. P.. 256. No 649]; 3) countermarks with representations of humans, animals, geometrical figures, ornaments, etc. [Ibid. No 649d-649z]. Some specimens have two, three or more different countermarks, whose distribution (provided the repetitions of the similar countermarks are attested in long enough series) can be classified.

The spread of the Sassanian drachmas to Northern Tokharistan is, of course, connected not only one single episode – the ransom of Peroz. A characteristically pre-Peroz hoard of coins was found in Dushanbe [Zabelina, 1953; Davidovich, 1979. p. 61]. Drachmas of Varakhran V, Valash, Khosroe I, Khormizd IV and Khosroe II have been also found on the right-bank of Amu Darja, although in smaller quantities. This reveals that the Sassanian silver was in circulation (although with hiatuses) in the V, VI, and VII c.

Local (Tokharistanian) imitation of Sassanian coins are known only for the drachmas of Peroz and Khosroe I. Imitations of drachmas of Khosroe I which are rare for southern Tadzhikistan [Zejmal’, 1985. p. 256. No 650] are represented by numerous specimens with different countermarks in the valley of Surkhan-darja [Pugachenkova, 1981]. Later on the basis of these coins there appeared the local mint of the Chagankhudats – the rulers of Chaganian (the north-western part of Tokharistan), belonging to the second half of the VII c. – the first quarter of the VIII c. [Rtveladze, 1987. p. 124].

The finds of Sassanian silver from southern Tadzhikistan and Uzbekistan are much more representative (in quantity as well as in quality) than those from the valley of Zeravshan (the Bukhara and Samarkand Sogd). Thus, the four hoard finds from the ruins of town Budrach (the middle course of Surkhan-darja), even if not completely preserved, contained around 1400 coins [Rtveladze, 1987. p. 120]; the hoard from the ruins of town Adzhinatepe (in the northern part of the valley of Vakhsh, near Adzhinatepe) contained more than 400 drachmas [Davidovich, Zejmal’, 1980. p. 80. Note No 23; Zejmal’, 1985. p. 256]. Single finds of Tokharian imitations are attested in many sites in southern Uzbekistan: Aktepe, Budrach, Dal’verzintepe, Turahanbajtepe, Savrindzhontepe, Kuljaltepe, Balaliktepe, Zangtepe, Kulugshakhtepe, Kattatepe, Shurob-Kurgan, Karatepe, the ruins of the Old Termez, etc. [Rtveladze, 1987. p. 120], and in Tadzhikistan: Adzhinatepe, the early medieval settlement near Nurek, the surroundings of the Hissar fortress, the ruins at Dushanbe, etc., including excavations with a well dated layers – Adzhinatepe, Kafirkala near Kolkhozabad, etc.

The territorial distribution of the silver coins and, in first place, of the local imitations of the Sassanian drachmas, shows that here also existed isolated regions with a predominant circulation of only certain series of coins. Rtveladze identified the clear domination of imitations of Khosroe I (531-579 AD) in the western part of Northern Tokharistan (Chaganian). The drachmas of this Sassanian ruler were reaching Chaganian in the 40’s-70’s of the VI c. on a regular rate [Rtveladze, 1987. p. 122], while imitations of the drachmas of Peroz were rarely found there. In another region of Northern Tokharistan – Khuttale (or rather its southern part – Vakhsh) there were mass finds of drachmas of Peroz (with the Sogdian legend of "Tokharian" in the countermarks), and the imitations of drachmas of Khosroe I were virtually unknown. It is still difficult to draw the exact boundary between these areas … . Most probably it was somewhere in the Hissar valley.

The identification of the "Chaganian" and "Vakhsh" regions of local imitations of Sassanian drachmas need additional commentary. These imitations, compared to their prototypes, are lighter: the overwhelming majority of the Peroz's imitations with the countermark "Tokharian" in the hoard from Chorgultepe are between 1.7 and 2.1 g; the Chaganian imitations of Khosroe I are slightly heavier - 2.4-2.5 g. [Rtveladze, 1987. p. 124], when the weight of the proper Sassanian drachmas of Khosroe I is more than 3.5 g. Having in mind that isolated zones of circulation of a certain group of coins are created when their value (in this example - their silver content) becomes less than the established standards, we can assume that the circulation of the Tokharistan imitation of Sassanian drachmas in both the "Chaganian" and the "Vakhsh" region was based on the number of coins without checking the weight of the coin, as if each of the imitations was a full-weight drachma. Beyond this region the value of these "drachmas" of lower weight was significantly less, as it was the silver content that mattered. This explains the numerous countermarks certifying the right of the coin of a certain "exchange rate" within certain regions. It seem that limits of these regions must have coincided with the boundaries of jurisdiction of the authorities issuing and countermarking these coins, i.e. with the boundaries of the politico-administrative units (possessions) in early medieval Northern Tokharistan. The Chaganian and the Vakhsh imitations contain approximately the same amount of silver. The Vakhsh imitation of Peroz's drachmas are somewhat lighter, but the Chaganian imitations of Khosroe's I drachmas have greater impurities of copper, zinc and lead [Rtveladze, 1987, p. 124]. However there were no "migrations" to the "foreign" territories. The unacceptance of "foreign" coins into one's market (even when the silver content was roughly the same) apparently was dictated not by political reasons, reasons of prestige or other non-economical factors; their acceptance would be to a serious economical loss because it would lead to limitations in the issuing of one's own debased coins and the direct benefits from this.

The co-existence of Chaganian and Vakhsh series of imitations was not earlier that the 80's of the VI c. Starting from the second half of the VII c. the local imitations of the drachmas of Khosroe I were substituted in Chaganian by a local mint, derived from these imitations - the drachmas (again of lower weight) of the Chagankhudats [Rtveladze, 1987. p. 123]. The Chagankhudats were a local dynasty which existed till the last quarter of the VIII c. and their drachmas were anepigraphical coins and coins with a cursive legend in the Bactrian script [Rtveladze, 1987. Table 22, 23]. It seems the Vakhsh imitations of Peroz I (with the Sogdian legend "Tokharian" on countermarks) were chronologically parallel to the latter Chaganian series and continued to be produced till the mid-VIII c. (the combined find at Adzhinatepe of a dirham from 750/751 AD).

Unfortunately, there are no reliable criteria for the development of a relative and absolute chronology of the earlier emission of Sassanian type coins in the Northern Tokharistan, and especially of the local imitations of Peroz's drachmas. The coin finds from the excavations leave too much space for abstract conclusions and datings [Vajnberg, Raevskaja, 1982. pp. 66-68 sq.]. The new numismatic materials from the Northern Tokharistan allow to introduce significant additions and modifications even in the fundamental study of R. Göbl dedicated to the coins of the "Iranian Huns", which takes into account all main foreign (foreign to the former Soviet Union) collections of Hephthalite type coins. Thus, the Vakhsh group of Peroz's imitations, appearing in the study as emission 290, was assigned by Göbl to the "Hunnic" issues in India (Radjputana) from the second half of the VIII c. (Göbl, 1967. Bd. I. p. 200, Bd. II. p. 51; Bd. III. Taf. 80), and the Sogdian legend in the countermarked was described as an unreadable corrupt Pahlavi legend [Göbl, 1967. Bd. II. p. 161. KM 89; Bd. IV. Taf. 9]. It is even more difficult to date the numerous countermarks found both on proper Sassanian drachmas and on their imitations, as they could have been stamped not only soon after their production, but also significantly later [Rtveladze, 1987. p. 121 sq.]. The development of a reliable chronology apparently have to wait until the appearance of a comprehensive publication of all accumulated coin finds from Northern Tokharistan as well as of new specimens with certain archaeological-stratigraphical dates. For now the dating of archaeological layers on the basis of such coins alone must be very careful and wide enough.

Until the appearance of new data, we can imagine that in the second half of the V c. and in the first half of the VI c. there were in circulation in Northern Tokharistan (besides the proper Sassanian coins) imitations of the drachmas of Peroz I, and that the differentiation of the "Chaganian" and "Vakhsh" provinces as well as the significant drop in the weight of the local imitations happened, as mentioned by Rtveladze, not earlier than the second half of the VII c. Regardless of whether Chaganian was captured by Khosroe I or not, the initial condition for such a differentiation of the coin provinces must have been the belonging of these territories to different politico-administrative units (the possessions of Chaganian and Vakhsh).

The picture of the circulation of copper coins in early medieval Northern Tokharistan is far from clear, but in principle it was the same as that in the other regions of Central Asia: the copper units issued were a certain relation to the silver coin of the given possession, but within this possession, for example - Vakhsh, there apparently could exist several more centres of a lower administrative rank, each of them having its own copper unit.

At this moment the differentiation of the coppers from the second half of the V c. - VI c. and their provinces represent the greatest difficulty. We can differentiate the emissions of Kobadian from that time {Table 121, 8} but there are only three known specimens of this type. Two of them were found on the surface of the ruins of Takhti-Kobad, the third one from the collection of E.A. Pakhonov is of unknown provenance. It is not impossible that these coins came from the left bank of Amu Darja, although there is no information about their presence in Northern Afghanistan [Zejmal', 1978. p. 205. Table V, 18].

Better identified are the coins of Termez: scyphates, anepigraphic, with the representation on the obverse of a ruler 3/4 facing bust, and on the reverse - of an anchor-like tamga {Table 121, 1-4} More that thirty such coins have been found on Karatepe, Fajaztepe, in the ruins of the Kurgan at the Old Termez, and in Chingiztepe (the distance between these sites being no more than 1.5-2 km).

Rtveladze also reports about a single specimen from the ruins of Shurob-Kurgan and about the presence of such coins "in some sites on the low course of Sherabad-darja" [Rtveladze, 1987. p. 126]. The proposition that this group belongs to the end of the V c. - VII c. [Davidovich, Zejmal', 1980. p. 73] was not accepted by B.I. Vajnberg. She dated them "from the second half of the IV till, probably, the end of the V c." [Vajnberg, Raevskaja, 1982. p. 66]. According to Rtveladze the "lower limit of production must be in the beginning of the V c., and the period of their circulation must be extended to the whole VII c. or even the first half of the VIII c." [Rtveladze, 1987, p. 126], i.e. the chronological limits of the Termez local mint must be around 350 years. The stratigraphic data at Karatepe, Fajaztepe and the Kurgan at Old Termez do not contain any indications of the belonging of these coins to the first half of the V c., and the argument for their belonging to the VII c. - the first half of the VIII c. is based on a single combined find of such coin together with "a variant of the Peroz's imitations, dated to the end of the VI c. - the second half of the VIII c." That is the proposed for the Termez local mint dates are "made younger" by the assigning to the VI c. of an additional century and a half. It was already noted that some series of Peroz's imitations are necessarily given too broad dates, which must be carefully used. Without regarding the dates for the Termez anepigraphic coins: the end of the V c. - the beginning of the VI c., as being firmly established and still allowing for certain correction in both directions, we must notice the latter would require a much more solid argumentation than that mentioned above: it is impossible to "allow" three and a half centuries of existence for this not numerous series.

Two more groups of copper early medieval coins can be localised in the western part of Tokharistan (without going further by identifying their centres). One of them (obverse – the facing bust of a ruler with a pointed hat, with S-type symbols on both sides of the head) is known only by two specimens (Dal'verzin and Khalchajan) and was first assigned to the "Turko-Sogdian" coins of the VI-VIII c. [Pugachenkova, 1966. p. 123. Fig. 78v; No 4, 5]; and later- to the V c. - the beginning of the VII c. [Rtveladze, 1987. p. 124]. The second group of coins - with a portrait of a pair on the obverse, and a rhombic tamga or a rhombic tamga with Bactrian cursive legend {Table 121, 6, 7}, is known by finds at many sites in the valley of Surkhan-darja (Khalchajan - [Pugachenkova, 1966. p. 123. Fig. 78]; Jakshibajtepe - [Al'baum, 1962, p. 58]; the ruins Budrach - [Pugachenkova, 1981. p. 254]; Kuljaltepe, Turakhanbajtepe, Savrindzhontepe, the mound Bittepe - [Rtveladze, 1987. pp. 124-125. Table 121, 24, 25, 28, 29; Rtveladze, 1987a. p. 218]) and it seems it is synchronous to the Chaganian imitations of the drachmas of Khosroe I. The same rhomboid tamga, as that of the reverse of these copper coins, is countermarked on the imitations of Khosroe's I drachmas. We assume that the start of its production was at the end of the VI c. - the beginning of the VII c., staying in circulation until the second half of the VIII c. [Rtveladze, 1987, p. 125].

Besides these groups, there are known other examples of early medieval copper coins from the valley of Surkhan-Darja and the surroundings of Termez, but for now they are single occurrences {Table 121, 5} or of poor preservation, which hinders their localisation and dating. The total number of early medieval coins from the western (Uzbekistani) part of Northern Tokharistan does not exceed one hundred, but we cannot judge about the degree of development of monetary market relations on the basis of this fact - the layers of the V-VIII c. has not been extensively studied there, and the accumulated material does not represent fully the local mints and the monetary early medieval economy.

In the same degree the above holds true for the valley of Hissar (Tadzhikistan) as well: until now we do not know that type of the early medieval coins which circulated there.

In the valley of Kafirnigan (Kafirnigankala, Munchaktepe) and in particular in the valley of Vakhsh there have been found hundreds of early medieval coins (Adzhinatepe, Kafirkala near Kolkhozabad, etc.). Cast copper coins with a hole in the centre (of the Chinese type), which were virtually unknown in the western part of Northern Tokharistan, predominated here. Three groups are easily distinguishable: 1) coins with a round hole and a Bactrian cursive legend (the reverse is flat), apparently connected with the lower course of Kafirnigan - the possession Kobadian (Munchaktepe, the ruins Takhti-Kobad, etc.), but occurring in the valley of Vakhsh (Adzhinatepe, etc.) as well {Table 121, 9-13}; 2) coins with a square hole and a legend in Sogdian script and schematically represented Chinese hieroglyphs "kaj juan tun bao" on the reverse (with corruptions, - {Table 121, 14-16}) on the early issues, and a flat reverse on the latter issues {Table 121, 17-20}; 3) coins with a round hole and the depiction of several types of tamga on one side (the other side being flat), which represent different stages of its schematisation: the tamga apparently consisted of a circle around the central hole and going out tentacles {Table 121, 21-35}. The second and the third group can be only broadly localised in the possessions of Vakhsh (Kafirkala, the ruins Lagman, the ruins Chorgul'tepe, Adzhinatepe and other archaeological sites).

The starting date for the issues of Chinese type in the possession of Vakhsh must be counted from the time of introduction of the coins "kaj juan tun bao" in China itself [Vorob'ev, 1963] in 621 AD. In the possession of Vakhsh the local imitations of the Chinese type with a Sogdian legend and Chinese hieroglyphs, that is the earliest issues of the second group, appeared later – after the second quarter of the VII c. How much later we cannot say but, apparently, it was during the second half of the VII c. Judging from the reliably dated stratigraphic complexes at Adzhinatepe (with dates from Arab dirhams) the coins of the second groups (and the series with the reproduced hieroglyphs and a flat reverse) were still in circulation in the 30’s-40’s of the VIII c. The same was also true to the coins of the first (with a Bactrian cursive legend) and of the third (anepigraphic with tamgas) groups.

The first and third group of coins had also started to be issued only after the second quarter of the VII c. If the localisation of the first group in Kobadian is confirmed by future studies, that is the differences between the first and the second group can be linked to different territories of circulation, then we can assume that the first and second group started to be produced at roughly the same time (or that the first group was a little bit later than the second).

The coins of the third group predominate numerically in the central part of the left bank of Vakhsh – the ruins Kafirkala near Kolkhozabad. When a find of coins (245 specimens) of the third group were found in the surroundings of Kolkhozabad [Davidovich, 1979. pp. 79-84. No 20]. V.A. Livshic suggested that the depicted on them "tamgas" "were in fact an imitation of the four Chinese hieroglyphs, further schematised and corrupted" [Davidovich, 1979. p. 80]. The period of their production was limited to the last quarter of the VII c. – the first quarter or the first half of the VIII c. However the earliest issues of coins of the third group, in which the tamgas were not subjected to significant schematisation, still do not display even a remote similarity with the distribution of the Chinese hieroglyphs on the coins of the second group. Besides, the central hole in the second group was square, and in the third group – round, which rather points to connection between the first and the third group.

It seems that all three groups of Vakhsh coins of the Chinese type appeared roughly simultaneously, but there are not yet enough data in order to draw the territorial boundaries between them (for example, the northern part of the left bank of Vakhsh – the region of Kurgan-Tjube and Adzhinatepe for the second group, and the region of Kolkhozabad for the third group).

Not only silver, but also copper coins (single finds) from the neighbouring regions of Central Asia reached Northern Tokharistan during the VI-VIII cc. Coins of the Ikhshids of the Samarkand Sogd, coins of the rulers of Pancha-Pendzhikent have been registered in the western [Rtveladze, 1987. p. 126] as well as in the eastern parts of Northern Tokharistan (Adzhinatepe, etc.). There are also known single specimens of copper coins issued in the land to the south of Amu Darja.

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