Author Topic: Early Shahis of Gandhara: Four Dots Uniface Damma  (Read 130 times)

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Offline shiblius

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Early Shahis of Gandhara: Four Dots Uniface Damma
« on: November 11, 2019, 04:14:28 AM »
Gandhara, Early Shahis of Kabul and Ohind (7-8th Century CE), AR Uniface Damma, four dots series, 1.19 grams, 13.8 x 15.5 mm. Brahmi letters “Ha Ka”.

As can be clearly seen, the four large dots are flanked on either side by two smaller dots. These dammas represent the earliest coinage -- some experts hold that these coins are local trade tokens while others consider them as religious tokens used during communal rituals as offerings -- issued by the Hindu Shahi dynasties of Kabul and Ohind. Later rulers of this dynasty issued the famous Horseman and Bull jitals from their capital at Kabul. These uniface coins are attributed to the period when the cities of Udabhandapura (village of Hund in District Swabi, Pakistan) or Purushapura (modern day city of Peshawar, Pakistan) served as the capital cities of the Shahis. These dammas have smaller obverses than the reverse, and it is believed that the coins were cast in fine clay molds. The standard reference for these coins is the catalogue by Fishman and Todd, and the coin shown here is listed as GA5 (rarity: R).

Offline THCoins

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Re: Early Shahis of Gandhara: Four Dots Uniface Damma
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2019, 03:23:06 PM »
Very nice specimen of the type.
Here a closely related one of mine which i showed earlier.
I don't know for sure whether i agree these are cast. Both these specimen clearly also show a triangulare appearance on the blank side, could be from hammering ?

Offline shiblius

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Re: Early Shahis of Gandhara: Four Dots Uniface Damma
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2019, 06:24:29 PM »
Great insight, I have not seen enough samples of this series to take a stance. The casting hypothesis is from the Fishman book
 where it is credited to John Deyell. The odd thing is that the stress lines are mostly around the dots and not around the Brahmi characters, however this is an observation based on a small sized sample and would need more examples to be generalizable.

Offline THCoins

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Re: Early Shahis of Gandhara: Four Dots Uniface Damma
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2019, 07:31:24 PM »
Thanks for the Dyell reference. I will try to find further what he based his conclusion on.

Offline Squarepenny

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Re: Early Shahis of Gandhara: Four Dots Uniface Damma
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2019, 11:33:41 PM »
Here is an extract from our book [A.M. Fishman and I.J. Todd, The Silver Damma: On the mashas, daniqs, qanhari dirhams and other diminutive coins of India, 600-1100 CE, IIRNS Publications, Columbia SC, 2018, pp. 29-30] ...

Manufacturing

The manufacturing method for these coins seems to be unique within Indian numismatics. It is unclear how the flans were prepared – perhaps they were cast, or perhaps the flans were struck with cast dies – but one unusual physical feature remains consistent: the size of the obverse is always somewhat smaller than the reverse. This gives the coins an odd characteristic in that the flans appear almost as though they have been fashioned from two thin halves, glued together. This unusual appearance has led some numismatists, notably Dr. S. Bhandare [personal communication], to believe that these pieces are not coins at all, but artefacts which fulfilled some other, ritual, function. An alternative explanation might be that these pieces were used as gaming tokens of some sort although their careful manufacture and standardized high-purity silver and weight would suggest they were produced to be a reliable medium of exchange and not for a lesser purpose, such as gaming.
   Coins of design type A (five-dot coins) were probably struck with dies, but later issues (four-dot design types B and C) may have been cast. John Deyell [personal communication] has theorized that the coins were cast in a very fine medium, possibly clay. A die showing the dot and line pattern (without the inscription) would be pressed into the medium to make the coin outline, and then a variety of aksharas would be scratched into the impression where space had been left on the die. This scratching of the characters resulted in the unusual calligraphy and shallow and fine form of the aksharas. In the next step, either carefully weighed scraps of silver would be put in the shallow impressions and melted down on a charcoal bed, or molten silver would be added. The molten metal would then be pressed with a hard flat surface producing a smooth reverse. This process would explain all the odd characteristics of these coins: the unusually consistent weight (discussed below); the strange two-layer appearance of the coins (as the metal would spill out of the shallow obverse mould when pressed with the flat smooth surface); the lack of casting channel (sprue) remains; and the odd calligraphy. The rust-like flaws sometimes seen on the obverse of these coins probably resulted because the moulds were damaged when the coins were removed (with some clay crumbling or sticking to the coin) and then reused. Many coins show slight impressions of dots on the reverse. Such impressions are also characteristic of casting, when the metal in a thin mould contracts during cooling, forming faint negative impressions across from the prominent features on the obverse.
   Since such a unique minting method would have been both easy and inexpensive, not requiring an established mint, the likely possibility is that the coins were not royal issues, but rather merchants’ tokens or trade coinage, each one marked with the issuer’s initials, explaining the oddly large number of types. Alternatively, but perhaps less likely, the inscriptions might be initials of the moneyers or control marks designed to keep track of different issues or workshops.

Offline THCoins

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Re: Early Shahis of Gandhara: Four Dots Uniface Damma
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2019, 09:48:21 AM »
Thanks for the reference ! Gives food for thought.
The "Two layer" aspect of the coins indeed is clearly visible in both specimen shown above.