Numismatic artefacts help the scientists to restore unknown pages of our history
It would not be a great exaggeration to say that modern civilization was established by money. It is by right related to such great invention of human though as pottery table, wheel and script of course. The earliest mention of the money is dated by the middle of II millennium BC – clay plate from Mesopotamia between Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the south of modern Iraq indicates the payment made by certain silver measure. Later in the Ancient East, metal bullions or stone weights of certain weight or measurement started to function as the money. The appearance of scale weights, which were necessary for accurate weight measurement of goods, is marked by numerous archaeological findings dated by the end of IV and III millenniums BC – the Neolith and Early Bronze Ages. These scale weights were found by the archaeologists on the territory of Turkmenistan in Anau, Kara-depe, Namazga-depe, Yilgynly-depe and many other monuments of those times (photo 2). They were also used in later stage when people of northern Kopetdag foothills developed fertile delta of Murgab River hwere the Kingdom known nowadays as the country of Margush or Ancient Margiana appeared.
It also had other forms of payments on higher level of the civilization development. During the excavations at the main gates of Gonur-depe stronghold, so-called tokens – clay balls with different marks were discovered (photo 3).
Archaeologists Victor Sarianidi who found it suggested that these were calculating tokens, which were left at the entry to the King’s stronghold when some goods or products were brought there. It also has all the reason to assume that these balls were used as the money.
There is another collection of items from the country of Margush, which might be considered as ancient money. This is about stone and ceramic spindle whorls with engravings in the shape of various circles and lines (photo 4). This was mass material, which was found at all monuments of Ancient Margiana. Metal spindle whorls – flat round items with the hole and relief edge in the centre, which were found in Anjikuin oasis in the ancient delta of Murgab River, are relatively rare (photo 5). Numismatist Vladimir Tyunibekyan assumed that these spindle whorls could be put on the rope as it was made in Ancient China to make the calculation of big numbers easier. It was the continuation of more ancient tradition to string up the cowrie shells, which were used as the money not only in pre-coins period of the history in China but also in India, Thailand and Africa until XIX century. The most interesting things is that after two years, in 2008, a whole bundle of such metal tokens was discovered in Lebap Velayat, in Koytendag foothills, in other words on the territory of Ancient Bactria. Numismatist archaeologist Tirkseh Hojaniyazov gave well-grounded opinion that there is no surprise in similarity of the findings from Ajikuin and Koytendag. In Bronze Age, in other words in in II millennium BC, both of these regions were inhabited by one nation that spoke the same language with common culture and world outlook. Therefore, both of these historical provinces are united in Bactrian – Margian archaeological complex (BMAC) in modern science.
Few centuries passed since this civilization disappeared before the coins – common payment means for us have come to circulation in the world. It is considered that the first metal plates with picture indicating that these are the money were made in Lydian Kingdom on the territory of modern Turkey in VII BC. To confirm the set weight of the piece of electra (the alloy of gold and silver) it was engraved with the picture. The king guaranteed the accuracy of the coin weight by this stamp. Different values of the coins with certain stamp for each weight standard appeared approximately at the same time. The invention was so successful that soon, the coins started to be made in other Mediterranean states and after, this method spread far to the East by caravan routes owing to the development of international contacts.
In the middle of IV BC, simple stamps of geometric figures, animals of gods on the coins were replaced by the portrays of the kings. Alexander Macedonian was the first one to appear on the coins. Plenty of coins with his easy-to-recognize profile was found in Turkmenistan and now they are the part of numismatic collections of the museums of the country and other big world’s museums (photo 6). The great conqueror made real money reform in his huge empire. He brought all previous monetary systems in conquered countries to single standards, having introduced so-called attic system, which existed for several centuries without any changes. Attic system existed on the territory of Turkmenistan during the Seleucids – the ancestors of Alexander as well as during the Arsacids – the rulers of Parthian Kingdom. Is was based on silver coins – the tetradrachm weighed little more than 17 grams, the drachm – 4.3 grams and obol, small coins with the weight of 1.6 grams.
Having studied thousands of coins, archaeologist numismatist Eugene Zeymal justified character features of the first centuries of money operations in Central Asia including Turkmenistan. He made a conclusion that money circulation and own coinage were started gradually there. At early stage, foreign coins came to the region as treasure. After, it was used as samples for making of domestic imitations. Own monetary emission was started only at the final stage of this process in the Parthian period (photo 7).
Another famous archaeologist numismatist Eduard Rtveladze expressed his doubt that Seleucid Greek Bactrian coins were always a treasure rather than the means f monetary circulation. He noticed the fact that copper halks, which could be rarely met outside the country it was made, were found by the archaeologists. “Probably, - E.V. Rtveladze writes, - that Akhemenid dariks and sikles were imported to the territory of Central Asia (they were found here, however the details of the findings are unknown) or the coins of VI – V BC like the staters of Akhemenids governors of Asia Minor, imitations of Athens coins, coins of Macedonian Kings from the famous Amudarya treasure, which is in the collection of British Museum.
Few years ago, the bundle of silver Akhemenid sickles with the image of the archer wearing tiara on the obverse and various embossings (photo 8). The pictures of two of these coins were published in scientific magazine. They raise the concern of the scientists about the inclusion of the territory of Turkmenistan to monetary circulation zone of Akhemenid Empire.
The coins of Sassanid Empire were in circulation for several centuries (III – VII centuries) on the territory of Southern Turkmenistan. They are found even in our days sometimes on the surfaces of numerous hills in Kopetdag Valley and the delta of Murgab River. Every Sassanid coin has the picture of the King, under which the coin was made, as well as his name what helps the historians to recreate the chronicle of reign of different monarchs. Sassanid coins was usually made of silver. Mainly, it bore the torso with the crown on the head pictured in side view (photo 9).
After the territories of Turkmenistan entered Arabic Caliphate in VII, the coins of ruling dynasty, first golden dinars, silver dirhams and copper fills of Omeyads (from 696) and after (from 750) kific coins of Abbasids distinguished by calligraphic expressiveness owing to decorative script “kufi” (photo 10). became the main payment means. By X century, when Abbasids lost the political power, their money continued to be used throughout the whole Muslim world, although in some countries, the coins of local dynasties, which were similar to Abbasid ones, were coined. However, silver coin crisis came after. Its features started to appear from the end of X century - the quality of coins reduced during the Samanids, gradually, the entire region felt the deficit of silver, which lasted for two hundred years.
Historian numismatists of different countries try to understand the cause of silver crisis. It could have been affected by several factors. These are big silver coins outflow to Europe and depletion of silver mines. Modern studies allowed finding out that by the end of X beginning XI centuries, the price of silver in Islamic world indeed increased. As a result, great number of substandard coins and copper substitutes of silver appeared. However, the caliphs managed to find the resources for making high-probe dirhams even in such complex situation.
Together with common tendencies, each medieval state has its own features, local traditions of coinage and monetary circulation. In particular, the Great Seljouks coined golden dinars of different content (photo 11). Besides the capital Nishapur, the monetary yards were located in Merv and Nisa. During Sultan Sanjar, the emission of own coins of Khorezmshakhs from Turkmen dynasty of Anushteginids has started in the north of Turkmenistan. Witten sources of those times directly indicate that Khorezmshakh Atsyz, the grandson of the founder of the dynasty Anushtegin, was the first who started to make coins on behalf of his name in 1142. After the quarter of the century, all provinces of this state made golden dinars and silver dirhams with the name of his son Il Arslan who was the Sultan by that time. Even the last Khorezmshakh Jelal ad-Din Menkburny was making his own coins, even though far away from his lost state.
Academic Ziya Buniyatov noted that the Khorezmshakhs paid special importance to political aspect of their own coins, although they followed local traditions in composition of monetary mass. The Korezmshakhs, especially Ala-ad-Din Muhammed II who coined golden dinars not only in the capital Gurganj (Kunyaurgench) but also in other monetary yards, intensified the production of golden dinars with the expansion of their empire. Nobody knows how much golden coins were hidden by the residents of Khorezm during Mongolian invasion. They were buried in the ground by the refugees leaving their places but hoping to come back. The Mongols destroyed and burnt the cities, killed and enslaved numerous people and that is probably the main fact why considerable part of hidden gold never got new life, - Z. M. Buniyatov writes. However, later including in our days, the bundles of golden dinars – priceless source for study of economic life of XII – beginning of XIII century, are discveed during earth works.
By present time, owing to archaeological studies, Turkmenistan accumulated huge monetary material providing the opportunity to the specialists to give substantial and detailed periodization of the development of monetary circulation in ancient and medieval times. When the ancient manuscripts keep silent, thee coins may help archaeologists to date this or that monument without mistake and shed the light on unknown pages of history of our land.