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Ancient Indian Coins : A Comprehensive Catalogue

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Item Code: UAC819
Author: Wilfried Pieper
Publisher: IIRNS Publications Pvt. Ltd
Language: English
Edition: 2021
ISBN: 9789392280016
Pages: 664 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 11.50 X 9.00 inch
Weight 2.19 kg
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Book Description
About the Author

After completing his PhD degree in Medicine from the University of Cologne in the 1980s, Wilfried Pieper worked as a hospital doctor and later as general practitioner. Since his early youth, he has developed a special interest in the coinages of ancient India. As an independent research scholar, he has been involved in research and publications on ancient Indian numismatics. Since the 1980s, he has regularly published in numismatic journals, particularly ONS-NL/JONS and Numismatic Digest. His major publications include Ancient Indian Coins (1998 as a joint publication with Prof. Osmund Bopearachchi) and Ancient Indian Coins Revisited (2013).


Already in high school, I started to look for catalogues on ancient Indian coins and quickly became the proud owner of two books which in a short time became my favourites. The first was Oriental coins and their values- The ancient and classical world, written by my hero, Michael Mitchiner. I found it stunning and admirable how a single man could pave his way through the jungle that was the world of ancient oriental coins in one single book.

The other book was John Allan's brilliant catalogue from 1936 about the ancient Indian coins in the British Museum. Both books I have paged through again and again ever since. Yet in the course of time a whole lot of new coins surfaced. Many remain still unpublished while others have been discussed in journals such as the Numismatic Digest, the JNSI, ONS-NL/ JONS, the newsletters of the ICS etc. A good number of specialized books focussing on diverse single series of ancient Indian coins were added to the growing, yet still scattered scholarship. The need for a comprehensive catalogue of ancient Indian coins did not abate.

The initial idea for the present book came from Kamalesh Kumar Maheshwari and Devendra Handa. I am extremely grateful to these eminent scholars for their invaluable help and support along the way. Besides Michael Mitchiner, Devendra Handa has been another of the heroes who profoundly inspired my numismatic studies. A living legend, he made lasting contributions to the field of ancient Indian numismatics and he never hesitated to share his unrivaled knowledge and rich data on coin images. The same applies to Kamalesh Kumar Maheshwari, author of pioneering works such as Imitations in Continuity- Tracking the Silver Coinage of Early Medieval India and head of the Indian Institute of Research in Numismatic Studies, which he founded in 1980 together with Pameshwari Lal Gupta. Kamalesh Kumar Maheshwari accompanied all steps in the development of the present catalogue with his numismatic knowledge. With his expertise as a book publisher and his never-dwindling enthusiasm, his guidance proved invaluable. At first the idea was to provide a slightly modified update of my 2013 book Ancient Indian Coins Revisited for the Indian market. This book was based on Ancient Indian Coins from 1998, which was a catalogue of my personal collection of ancient Indian and Indo-Greek coins. I had the great pleasure to publish that book together with Osmund Bopearachchi, one of the grandmasters of Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek coinages, who in the course of time became a close friend of mine. Both of these books, however, only comprised the coins from my personal collection. Producing a comprehensive catalogue, ideally covering all main types, quickly became a much more attractive and useful objective.

The scope covered by this book is vast and my knowledge unfortunately little in many areas. I was therefore fortunate to be able to cooperate with three leading experts who contributed three chapters. Pankaj Tandon knows more about the Paratarajas than anyone else. It was a great personal pleasure and a great benefit for the book that Pankaj agreed to write the chapter on the Paratarajas. For the Gupta chapter I could not have thought of a better candidate than Sanjeev Kumar, author of the recently published Treasures of the Gupta Empire - the new seminal work on the Gupta coins. And when one thinks of the Ksaharatas and Ksatrapas, Alex Fishman immediately comes to mind, author of the Silver coinage of the western Satraps in India and the Base-metal coinage of the western Satraps in India, landmark publications of the series, and of the Silver Damma; the latter now being the standard reference for the small silver dammas of early medieval India. I was therefore happy when Alex also agreed to contribute a chapter.

Terry Hardaker provided the templates for the maps. His illustrations were a great complement to the text and I am very grateful for his help.

For the punchmarked series I greatly benefited from the data shared by Paul Murphy for the Kogala series, by Shinji Hirano for the Narhan type series, Anne van't Haaff for the Saurasena and Saurashtra series, Noman Nasir for the Bengal types and Michael Mitchiner for the Chaman Hazouri, the Kali and many other types- their help was very much appreciated!

Many thanks also to Susmita Majumdar for kindly sharing important pictures of the Malhar series. The Kausambi chapter would lack many important types without the kindness of Badri Prasad Verma. Likewise, the Central Indian part benefited enormously from the rich collection of Girish Sharma. My deepest thanks also go to Avinash Ramteke for sharing comprehensive information from his unrivalled ancient Vidarbha collection.

Our knowledge of the Sangam age Tamil coins largely draws on the pioneering works by Ramasubbu Krishnamurthy. He kindly granted me access to all coin image data in his possession, for which I am most grateful. Raman Sankaran generously provided other images and catalogues of important South Indian coins. Shailendra Bhandare very kindly opened the trays in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford and generously provided data from his thesis on coins of the Satavahanas and their feudatories. His help made the challenging task of cataloging the coinages of the ancient Deccan more manageable.

For the Taxila chapter I am particularly grateful to Aman Ur-Rahman for the warm reception and invitation to stay in his home in Dubai where I had the opportunity to study a large hoard of hitherto unpublished local Taxila coins.

Thanks also to the leading auction houses for the kind permission to use coin images from their catalogues, above all Todywalla, Marudhar Arts, Classical Numismatic Gallery, Classical Numismatic Group, Rajgor's auctions, Oswal auctions, Imperial auctions, Bombay auctions and Steve Album auctions. A special thanks to Steve Album for helpful advice and the constructive exchange of views.

For his invaluable help in transliteration and transcription of Brahmi and Kharosthi legends I am deeply grateful to Harry Falk. His reading of many new coin legends was another important contribution. Thanks also to John Horan for proof-reading many of the chapters.

I cannot list each and every name of all other friends, scholars and collectors who helped to increase the data base by kindly sharing coin images in their possession. There were more than one hundred helpful contributors in total, to which I remain indebted and grateful. Every name has been acknowledged in the book; at least I hope not to have omitted any.

Foreign dynasties, such as Indo-Greeks and Indo-Scythians, are outside the scope of this catalogue and apart from a few exceptions gold is excluded. Given the vast amount of different series of ancient Indian coins, the respective commentaries cannot provide in-depth discussions. Rather, they are meant to contextualise the catalogued coins in their historical perspective, including relevant recent evidence. I hope this will turn out to be exhaustive enough to serve as a useful historical and typological overview.


The idea behind this book was to collect largely scattered information on the coins of ancient India in one comprehensive catalogue. The timeframe covers the period from the earliest issues at about 500 BCE to the late classical/early medieval time at about 700 CE. With the constant appearance of new coin types and the limited access to coins in private and institutional collections, achieving comprehensiveness is a challenging task from the very beginning. With this caveat, the objective was to catalogue the coins as comprehensively as possible. Even with this ambition, I decided to limit the work to the display of the silver and base-metal coins while with a few exceptions gold, such as that of the Kushan and Gupta, was completely omitted.

For the punchmarked silver coinages (chapter 1), valuable surveys were published by Rajgor (2001) and Mitchiner (2004). Specialized catalogues exist for 'different series respectively, such as the Gupta & Hardaker book on the Magadha-Maurya coins (recently revised by Terry Hardaker (2019); Anne van't Haaff’s (2004) work on the Saurasena and Saurashtra coins, Shinji Hirano's (2007) on the so-called Narhan coins of the Ghaghara-Gandak river region and Paul Murphy's (2001) work on the Koala punchmarked coins. The recent catalogue by Terry Hardaker (2019) gives a brilliant survey of the non-Imperial punchmarked coins North of the Deccan. For the local Deccan punchmarked types, a new catalogue by Prashant Kulkarni is underway. As repetition would have little value, I decided to limit the chapter on punchmarked coins to just representative samples for each series.

A question still in need of an answer is the origin of the early uninscribed cast copper coins (EUCCCs) (chapter 2). While these mostly circulated during the second century BCE, the first of these coins appear to have already been issued under the Mauryan kings. Certain types enjoyed a wide circulation throughout large parts of Northern India, other types were rather local issues with limited areas of circulation. Like the silver karsapanas, certain types of EUCCCs were very popular and secondary copies were used in commerce until the Kusana period. Some of the locally restricted types of EUCCCs, particularly those which are typologically close to Mauryan prototypes, are listed in chapter 2, while others will be found in the respective local sections. The presentation of the EUCCSs is structured in two parts, dealing with the issues of Northern India and those of the Deccan, respectively.

Chapter 3 covers the Central and Western Indian coins at large. Many specimens here are far from being precisely attributable and time will bring further refinement to the many an epigraphic types of Western and Eastern Malwa and Saurashtra. As Khandesh is closely linked to the coin tradition of Malwa, it has also been included here. In particular, we know of a good number of coins with typological links to Malwa issues from Prakashe on the banks of the Tapi river. Ancient trade routes connected Gujarat with Ujjain and the upper Northwestern Deccan, Broach with Paithan and Nasik with Ujjain via Maheshwar, the ancient Mahismati. Lead coins were widely used in the Deccan but to a much lesser extent in Central India, at least before the advent of the Satavahanas. Such lead coins are included in this chapter, as are the lead coins of ancient Tripuri which later had a much more pronounced tradition in the use of lead coins. The local Ujjain coin series is definitely the prominent and most prolific among those treated in this chapter. Apart from their rich symbolism, many of the Ujjain coins bear human depictions. These are of special interest as they are among India's earliest representations of deities in anthropomorphic form and thus most important for the iconographic development of these deities. As for metrology, scholars attempted to define clear standards for the Ujjain copper coins and likewise for other ancient Indian coppers. The underlying thesis was that these coins were struck according to a copper karsapa4a weight system of approximately 9.33g for one karsapana equivalent to 80 rattis. In practice, the distinction between different weights was not that clear-cut. The difficulty of defining clear denominations for these copper coins would be understandable if this coinage had been a token currency without strict correlation to the intrinsic metal value. In that case the decisive factor for the acceptability of a coin would have been its general appearance, its average size and typological features allowing for a certain margin of fluctuations for the weight.

The civic issues of the Narmada valley city states, the coins of Vidisa-Eran and those of the Erich region are the subject of chapter 4. While coin production of the Vidisa-Eran region mainly relied on the punchmarking technique, a considerable number of die-struck coins has also come to light. The rich coinage of Erich on the banks of the river Betwa in Jhansi district of modern Uttar Pradesh reflects its importance as one of India's ancient trade centers, connected via rivers with places such as Kausambi and the Vidisa-Eran) region. This was a prosperous urban center with an independent coinage from the early post-Mauryan times until c. 130 CE, i.e. about the time of Kusana occupation under Kaniska.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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