Jump to content

An imitation of an imitation and progress on my greatest mystery coin


kirispupis

Recommended Posts

  • Benefactor

Some time ago I bought this coin and it has remained my most mysterious.

Arabia.jpg.95a5e2413205954e6097d63755de7be7.jpg

Arabia. Athens imitation.
5th-3rd centuries BCE
15mm 4.0g
Helmeted head of Athena left / Owl standing left, head facing; olive spray to right.
Unknown attribution. Seems to be from Arabia. May be unique.

The original attribution was Edom, but I knew when I bought it that was incorrect. For reference, here is my Edom example.

Edom.jpg.1bfd3126e1ac6ba0ac02ac232124441b.jpg

Edom (Idumaea)
4th century BCE
AR Quarter Shekel – Drachm 11mm, 3.61g
Imitating Athens. Helmeted head of Athena right, degraded to blank dome-like surface /
Owl standing right, head facing; olive spray and crescent to left.
GTvA 12–20; HGC 10, 617

I've discussed this coin in depth on another site, and the conclusion (thanks to the help of @robinjojo) was that it's most likely southern Arabian.

I've now found another coin for sale that gives me more thought. Note: NOT MY COIN

qataban.png.69c611087aecb2ba02f6a36e6250c849.png

Southern. Qataban. Attina, Unknown ruler(s). Circa 350-320/00 BC. Imitating Athens. Obols Helmeted head of Athena right, wearing earring, necklace, and crested Attic helmet decorated with three olive leaves over visor, aQatabanian monogram on face, Owl standing right, head facing; olive spray, crescent, Royal Qatabanian monogram and AΘE to right. Weight: 0.78 gm. Size: 10 mm.

First of all, like my coin, I believe the attribution is incorrect. The 'X' on the face is not a Qatabian monogram. It is a symbol of value used by Saba, who used a single character to denote value on their coins. The following are the commonly used ones.

N - one unit - typically 5-5.2g
G - half unit - typically about 2.5g
X - a quarter unit - typically about 1.2g
S - an eighty unit - typically .5-.6g
 

So, this coin has an 'X', but there are two problems:
1) The weight is way below what it should be for a quarter unit denoted by 'X'
2) The weight isn't even one of the standard ones used by Saba. It's between their fourth and eighth unit.

But this coin told me even more. If you look at the obverse, it looks very similar to mine, only mine is reversed. What's more, I believe my coin also has an X, only it's been moved to behind the ear when the image was reversed. My coin also displays an even more incorrect weight of 4g. This is way more than what a quarter unit should weigh and is too low for a Saba unit.

Therefore, I'm led to believe that neither my coin nor this one for sale are from Saba (but also not from Qataban, which typically contain a trident), but they are from a culture that traded heavily with Saba. Being more specific, I believe that these coins (or at least my coin - I don't care as much about one I don't own) were imitations of the Saba imitation, and not of the Athens original. Whoever minted these was very familiar with Saba and their coinage, but perhaps not so much with Athens itself.

From there, the next question is "who?" There are some possibilities I've considered:

1) Saba itself. Yeah, I know. I just said it wasn't Saba. However, from my reading the kingdom was more of a loose federation and so it's possible that some distant cousin within the federation minted these. I doubt it, but it's possible.
2) A neighboring kingdom. There were definitely neighboring kingdoms, but which one? My understanding is Qataban and Mina already had their coins, so they wouldn't have minted these.

So, because I'm not in academics and am therefore allowed to make wild guesses without the penalties, I wonder if it could be Axum?

Axum was literally across the red sea from Saba and wouldn't mint "proper" coins until the 1st century CE, by which time Saba had faded. They must have traded heavily at that time and would certainly be more familiar with Saba than with Athens. They would have likely been new to minting coins and could do something like create a die in reverse. They may have also been less likely to know the difference of the value symbols. They just picked an example and copied it.

For now, I feel safest changing my attribution to "Culture near Saba, Arabia. 3rd-2nd centuries BCE". However, the theory certainly seems plausible - though that's probably because I made it up. Only find sites would truly begin to answer the question.

What do you think?

 

 

  • Like 16
  • Cookie 1
  • Thinking 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor

Very interesting, and I do see the parallels between your coin and NBJ coin.  Coin weights, especially for these imitations, can be tricky and hard sometimes to correlate with current references.  Really, we are dealing with coinage, issued over three centuries over a vast region or regions, that is little understood, so there are lots of "odd ball" drachms, units, tetradrachms, etc. that really don't fit neatly into one kingdom or civic issuers due to style, weight and symbols/characters, such as "X".  

I wish there were more sources of information out there, but given the disparate nature of finds of these coins, mostly by individuals operating on the fringes of the ancient coin supply ecosystem, whose reticence to divulge any information on hoard location and hoard composition, we're groping in the dark when it comes to attribution.  

I do agree with your coin not being Qatabanian.  The style, based on my limited handling of Qatabian coins, does not seem right.  Could it have come from Axum?  I'm not sure, but I will try to do a search online, without very high expectations.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm guessing this article is probably already known to you but I happened to come across it last night and it seems quite relevant to the discussion at hand. If not new to you, hopefully it's new to someone else here at least!

https://www.academia.edu/8847316/Athenian_Imitations_from_Arabia_in_M_Huth_and_P_van_Alfen_Coinage_of_the_Caravan_Kingdoms_Studies_in_the_Monetization_of_Ancient_Arabia_ANS_Numismatic_Studies_25_New_York_2010_pp_227_256

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor
1 hour ago, Kaleun96 said:

I'm guessing this article is probably already known to you but I happened to come across it last night and it seems quite relevant to the discussion at hand. If not new to you, hopefully it's new to someone else here at least!

https://www.academia.edu/8847316/Athenian_Imitations_from_Arabia_in_M_Huth_and_P_van_Alfen_Coinage_of_the_Caravan_Kingdoms_Studies_in_the_Monetization_of_Ancient_Arabia_ANS_Numismatic_Studies_25_New_York_2010_pp_227_256

Thanks! Yes, I'm familiar with this paper. This one is also an interesting read.

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/dannyjones/Oriental and Non-Classical Kingdom Coin Books/Ancient coinage of southern Arabia.pdf

Note that I realize an attribution of Axum (or what would become Axum) is a reach. What I do believe is that my coin is an imitation of the Saba coinage, which itself is an imitation of Athens. Therefore, I believe whoever minted it wasn't very far from Saba and minted it around the time Saba was issuing similar coins.

Unfortunately, given the current state of affairs in the region I doubt we're going to see more structured digs that shed light on it.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...