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


Samarkand Sogd, Ustrushana Coins  --> Table 122
The early medieval coins and coin circulation of this region have not been studied thoroughly yet, especially when compared to the big advances in the study of the material and artistic culture of the early medieval Ustrushana.

The rules of this region issued bronze (without a hole in the middle) coins [Smirnova, 1971; 1981. pp. 324-335; Davutov, Zejmal’, 1985. p. 253]: a ruler with a complicated crown, frequently with wings (exception are the depictions of an elephant looking to the left [Smirnova, 1981. No 1427-1431]) on the obverse; the characteristic V-like Ustrushanian symbol-tamga, sometimes in combination with other symbols and a Sogdian legend with the name of the ruler and the title "Lord", rendered by the heterogram MR’Y {Table 122, 18-21} on the reverse. More than forty coins of this type are known at present, several specimens and two not numerous hoard finds (8 specimens and 10 specimens correspondingly) came from the excavations of the town of Kalai Kakhkakh I in the Shakhristan and also from the well stratified excavations of the ruins of the early medieval Pendzhikent.

The chronology of the Ustrushan coins has not been reliably established yet. In one place Smirnova says that they are dated "archaeologically not later than the VI c. – the beginning of the VII c." [Smirnova, 1971. p. 62; 1981. p. 7], and in another – that they belonged "to the end of the VI-VII c." [Smirnova, 1981. p. 35]. The iconographical similarities to the winged crowns [Smirnova, 1971. p. 62; 1981. p. 32] came from the second and third quarter of the VII c., which would allow to exclude the VI c. and the first quarter or the fist half of the VII c. from consideration. At Pendzhikent one group of Ustrushan coins (bearing the name of Satachari) was found in the layers and finds of the second half of the VIII c. [Belenickij, Marshak, Raspopova, 1980. p. 15, 18; Belenickij, Raspopova, 1981. p. 11, 13]. This would mean that the minting of the Ustrushan coins started not earlier than the second half of the VII c. and continued in the fist quarter of the VIII c. This dating coincides well with out general ideas about the monetary economy of Central Asia, but the final say will be with the stratigraphic data – the new finds from Pendzhikent and from sites in Ustrushana (including the data about the two hoard finds at Kalai Kakhkakh I – site VI, room 8 and site V, room I, unpublished yet).

The lack of an exact chronology hinders to use of the Ustrushana coins both as an archaeological dating tool and as a historical evidence: the names of the rulers (Chirdmish, Satachari, Rakhanch), as read by Smirnova, are not found in the written sources. The relatively humble title of "Lord" (MR’Y) attested on the coins point to the dependence of the Ustrushan rulers on some other ruler of a higher rank, which is in agreement with the information of Sjuan Czjan (629 AD) that the ruler of Ustrushan was subordinated to the Tjurks (V.K.: "Tjurks" as opposed to "Turks"). However, if the coins started to be issued from the second half of the VII c. the political situation might have changed.

The economical nature of the Ustrushan coins is still unclear: were they related according to their real value to the silver coins, or was there an obligatory exchange rate. The presence of Ustrushan coins at Pendzhikent would rather favour the first proposition, but there is no definitive answer yet.

There are no published data about finds of non-Ustrushan coins on the territory of Ustrushana. Two finds of early Chach coins: kurgan No 1 from the mound of Outsajm and the settlement of Kajragach in south-western Ferghana [Brikina, 1982. p. 89. Fig. 60] are at present the only evidence for contacts of Ustrushana with Chach at the time when Ustrushana had not yet started to produce its own coins. The Ustrushana coins at Pendzhikent (and other places) speak about some contacts with the Samarkand Sogd in the second half of the VII c. – the first quarter of the VIII c., but we do not know whether these were commercial contacts or some sort of political relations. Even less is known about the early medieval monetary relations of Ustrushana with Khodzhent: even if Khodzhent minted its own coins, they have not been identified.

A "blank spot" in the monetary history of Ustrushana is also the period of struggles for independence against the Arabs, which last for longer in Ustrushana than, for example, in the Samarkand Sogd. We can assume that during the last quarter of the VIII c. Arabic dirhams and fulus were already in circulation in Ustrushana, and that the local coins ceased to circulate.

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