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Coinage in Ancient India - A Numismatic, Archeaeochemical and Metallurgic Study of Ancient India Coins (Set of 2 Volumes)

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Item Code: NAV217
Author: Swami Satya Prakash Saraswati and Rajendra Singh
Publisher: Govindram Hasanand
Language: English
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9788170770084
Pages: 554 (35 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 10.00 X 7.00 inch
Weight 1.53 kg
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Book Description

The application of chemistry to archaeology has grown from small beginnings near the close of the 18th century to become at present a subject of widespread interest. The amount of activity in this special field of study has increased greatly in the last few years. One index of this large recent increase is the proportion of papers, monographs and books on the subject published within the last ten years. About 20 per cent of all publications on the chemical analysis of ancient materials and objects have appeared in this last decade. If the publications on dating by chemical methods and on chemical procedures for the restoration and preservation of ancient objects are also taken into consideration, the proportion in the last ten years rises to about 30 per cent. The present volume by Professor Satya Prakash contains many interesting examples of the application of chemistry to the study of a particular class of ancient objects, and is another indication of the current widespread interest in archaeological chemistry.

Among the various kinds of ancient objects that have attracted attention of chemists, coins have always had a place of special importance. In addition to being very interesting objects from a historical standpoint, they are more abundant than any other sort of ancient metal object, and therefore more available for chemical investigation. The chemical analysis of coins yields detailed information on the composition of important ancient alloys, and the microscopic examination of their structure reveals metallurgical techniques used in antiquity. Corroded ancient coins are a source of information on the natural corrosion products of metals and alloys, and on the processes of corrosion. Some of the information obtained from the chemical investigation of ancient coins is of interest only to chemists and metallurgists, but much of it is of interest to archaeologists and numismatists. Any exact knowledge about the kinds of metals and alloys used for coins in different regions at different times, about chronological changes in composition, about the occurrence of coinage debasement, and about still other matters of particular archaeological or numismatic significance must be based on the results of chemical analyses.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the early workers in the field of archaeological chemistry devoted much of their attention to the investigation of ancient coins. Indeed, the earliest worker in this field, the celebrated chemist, Klaproth was also the first to analyse ancient coins!. His analyses of a few Greek and Roman coins com- posed of copper, bronze, brass, and silver were published? in the years from 1798 to 1815. About 500 ancient coins were analysed during the 19th century by various workers. Especially extensive and important are the analyses published by Bibra and by Hofmann? ®. Independently . in the same year Hultsch’ and Hofmann introduced the use of specific gravity measurements for estimating the fineness of ancient gold and electrum coins. The publications of Hofmann are also important because they show explicitly for the first time the value of chemical investigations in numismatic studies.

Of the hundreds of ancient coins analysed during the 19th century, only a very small proportion originated outside the Western world. Some Chinese coins were analysed by Bibra’ and by others, but for the most part these coins are so poorly described that their antiquity is in doubt. Three ancient Persian coins were analysed by Bibra, and one very unusual Bactrian coin was analysed by Flight® who found it to be composed of an alloy of copper and nickel. Only a single Indian coin appears to have been analysed prior to the 20th century. This coin, evidently of very early date, was found by Lettsom to be composed of nearly pure silver. The analysis was published by Flight.

Although activity in the general field of archaeological chemistry increased considerably in the first quarter of the 20th century, there was at the same time a marked lull in original investigations of ancient coins. In an extensive article Hammer’? summarized the results of nearly all previous analyses of ancient coins. He also included some 300 original specific gravity measurements of Greek gold and electrum coins. Almost half the publications of this quarter century deal with the determination of the fineness of such coins by means of specific gravity. Most of the remaining publications contain chemical analyses of Greek, Roman, and Celtic coins, but no one publication contained more than a few original analyses, and these are usually incidental to the main subject of the publication. The first analyses of adequately described and dated ancient Chinese coins were published by Chikashige''. Shortly afterward, Wang" published analyses of a few more.

A considerable revival of interest in the chemical analysis of ancient coins occurred in the second quarter of the 20th century. As compared to the first quarter, the number of published original investigations more than doubled, and for the most part they individually and collectively contain the results of many more analyses. Among the more extensive investigations was one on Greek bronze coins" and one on Chinese coins'*. An awakening of interest in the composition of ancient [Indian coins is indicated by the publication of six analyses'’. Emission spectroscopy as an analytical tool for the investigation of ancient coins was introduced late in this period. The use: of this technique for the analysis of such coins was first suggested by Otto'® in 1940, and the first results of its application appeared in a book by Grant" in 1946.


Archaeological chemistry, as a subject of the highest study is yet in this country in its first phase, whereas in England, it has now entered its third phase after the Second World war. I am obliged to Prof. Earle R. Caley of the Ohio State University, Columbus, U.S.A., one of the most distinguished workers in the field of archaeological chemistry, to have written a Foreword to this monograph.

None of the authors of this monograph is an orthodox numismatist. Having been interested in metallurgical practices of our olden times, the study of the ancient Indian coins was undertaken. Here one could speak with some certainty the dates when they were forged. In connection with this study, it was difficult to ignore the history of the coinage practices in this country, and the material which could be collected for one’s personal use in this context has also been presented to the readers to serve as a background.

This monograph is not a book on Indian numismatics on traditional lines; it emphasizes those aspects which might be helpful to one interested in archaeo-chemical studies and in the application of quantitative methods in archaeology. Of course, besides this, the volume also incorporates the documented material from the entire history up to a period of 1000 A.D. from the earliest times. The reader would appreciate the material on Roman and Greek coinage as a contemporary study. A few other ancient countries have also been included in the study. The monograph has chapters which may roughly fall under three broad heads: (i) a description of ancient Indian coins of different periods, available in collections of museums, (ii) a documental reference to Indian coinage in ancient Indian literature; this covers the Vedic period, the Brahmana period, the periods of Panini. Kautilya, and Manu, and the period when the ancient books on Indian Mathematics were compiled, and (iii) the laboratory work on the chemical and spectroscopic analyses and metallographic studies of Indian coins. An account of the coinage in the ancient neighbouring countries has also been given and in this context, I am obliged to Professor Caley, for the material on the Greek and Roman coins which has been collected from his numerous publications.

For this work on coins, the indebtedness of authors goes to Shri S.C. Kala, Curator, Allahabad Museum, to Prof. G.R. Sharma, Head of the Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Allahabad, to Sri Jineshwar Das and to Shri R.C. Vyas for their valuable personal collections at Allahabad, to Dr. N.A. Narasimham, Head of the Spectroscopic Division, Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay for providing necessar, facilities for the spectroscopic work, and to Dr. T.R. Anantharaman, Head of the Department of Metallurgy and Shri R.P. Wahi, incharge, Metallographic Section. Banaras Hindu University, for kindly assisting in the metallographic work. Thanks are also due to Sri Balkrishna of the National Museum. New Delhi for the Bibliography and the use of material from the Library.

It is remarkable that the Indian Palaeobotanist of the eminence of Professor Birbal Sahni got interested in the moulds used for forging ancient Indian coins, and in one of our chapters has been summarized the material which he had presented in one of his publications. Equally interesting has been the scientific aptitude of some workers in the field of Indian numismatics, and in this context, the publications of Kosambi in the Current Science and other journals are very valuable. I have copiously incorporated in this monograph the material from the writings of numismatists like Cunningham, Brown, Mac Dowall, Robert Goeble, Altekar, Vasudeva Sharana Agrawal, Chakrabortty and others. We have reproduced in details material from the paper of Mac Dowall and also of Goebl since they have suggested a new technique of approach towards numismatic study; of course, these techniques have their own limitations and must be used with caution.

I was obliged to the Research Institute of Ancient Scientific Studies (RIASS), New Delhi to have included the present monograph entitled COINAGE IN ANCIENT INDIA in its publication programme. As early as 1962, my pupil, Dr. N.S. Rawat started some work on the chemical analyses of objects of archaeological interest at the University of Allahabad and submitted a dissertation for the Doctorate, and this work was extended by another pupil of mine, Dr. Rajendra Singh, the co-author. The present imprint of this monograph also incorporates in the form of an appendix the work of another pupil of mine, Dr. J. Venu Gopalkrishna Murthy, on ‘Ultrasonic study of the elastic constants of some ancient and medieval Indian coins’’ (J. Indian Chem. Soc. , 1982, LIX, 591-594).

After the sudden death of the Director of the RIASS, the activities of the Institute were almost instantly winded up and only a few copies cf the monograph (1968) could then be released to public. Since then till now it has remained unavailable. We are now thankful to our new distinguished publisher Messrs. Govindram Hasanand of Delhi for this beautiful new Reprint.

In one of his reviewing and summarizing papers contributed to a monograph, David W. MacDowall writes as follows: (The pre-mohammadon coinage of greater India: a preliminary list of some analyses):

Although Klaproth (1815), E. von Bibra (1869;1873), Hofmann (1884;1885) and Hultsch (1884) published analyses of many other coins and von Bibra actually analyzed a few Chinese and Persian coins, very few Indian coins were analyzed in the nineteenth century. Flight (1868) discovered the presence of nickel in a coin Enthydemus in 1868 and published Lettsom’s analysis of a silver punch-marked coin in 1882. But towards the end of the century there was an increasing interest in the metals used for coinage and the relative purity and debasement of the metals used. While some comments seem to be based on no more than subjective assessment others, like those of Cunningham in his accounts of the coinage of Saka, Kushan and Gupta dynasties, reflect some precise methods and try to measure the quality systematically through a series — calculating gold content from the determination of specific gravity.

In this way, MacDowall reviews a good deal of literature. He refers to the work done on chemical composition of coins by government chemists in Indian museums on some sample taken from a rich hoard of coins. He refers to the good work of S.K. Maity who calculated out the gold content of a gold coin from the specific gravity data. He refers to the work of Professor Thompson on spectrographic analyses backed by the microscopic examination of coins in the principal issues of the medieval kings of Ceylone, of Rajraj, the Shahis of Kabul, the Hindu kings of Kashmir and the Kushan dynasty.

Then McDowall writes: "It is, however, to the Research Institute of Ancient Scientific Studies in New Delhi that we are indebted for the most extensive series of analyses undertaken so far in this field, which gives a good general coverage of most of the remaining series of ancient and medieval coinage in India in the extremely useful volumes by Prakash and Singh (i.e. Satya Prakash and Rajendra Singh), Coinage in Ancient India. The work is impressive in its thoroughness. For each coin there is a spectrographic and chemical analysis, backed by the study of microstructure with a commentary on the composition and impurities noted. Each coin is described with a note of size and weight which sometimes enables the numismatist to identify the coin even more closely than has been done in the text."’

The authors feel elated to see that their work has been appreciated and commended. Today we live in an age of paper currency and light alloys of inferior value, and perhaps for long decades, the present day coins world over would not interest any serious numismatist.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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