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A lost peoples: The Hephthalites or the White Huns/Hunic crackers *It can't be racist if no one knows your race


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A coin type that I've been intrigued by before and picked up today is that of the Hephthalites (any corrections on the identification are always appreciated):


HEPHTHALITES. "Nspk Malka". Circa 500-560 AD. AR Drachm (25 MM, 3.27 gm). Bust right wearing bull's head crown / Fire altar with attendants. MACW 1507; Göbl, Hunnen 198. Toned, nearly very fine


(Talk about side eyes that would cut a Karen in two!)

Known as Hephthalites, or White Huns in the Byzantine sources, the name they used themselves is unknown. In the 5th - 6th centuries AD they founded a great empire on the later territory of the modern states of Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China!


(Imagine conquering this much land and ruling for two centuries without posterity even knowing what you called yourselves!?)

For two centuries they dominated this region and the political history. Sasanian Iran, most powerful empire of the period, was repeatedly defeated by the Hephthalites. Besides that, they overthrew the Gupta Empire in India and conquered a large part of that area. 


Sadly, we don't know if the "White Huns" should even be called Huns! Nor whether the Hephthalites, the Kidarites and the Chionites were from three branches of the same ethnic group or culturally, linguistically, and genetically distinct from one another?

The only thing we know for certain is that they NEVER should have messed with Mary Jane Watson!


(Don't ask. I stumbled across this while looking up images of the Hephthalites and HAD TO share)

So please, share your coins of any "lost" peoples, the Hephthalites, thoughts, or anything related!


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The Mongols were similar. The western part of the Golden Horde is called the ‘right hand’ (despite being on the left on a map) and is referred to as either the White Horde (in Russian sources) or the Blue Horde (in Timurid and Western sources). The east, the ‘left hand’ (which partly includes White Hun territory), is known either as the Blue Horde (in Russian sources) or the White Horde (in Timurid and Western sources). The Mongols never used any of these terms.

Anyway, here's a coin from the Celts, who definitely didn't call themselves Celtic. That term was first used by the Greeks to describe the people of Marseille. We have no idea what they called themselves but it's unlikely they thought they were all the same - that would be racist.

Antedios ‘D-Bar’ Unit, 10-30
Iceni tribe, East Anglia. Silver, 13x14mm, 1.01g. Horse right, corn-ear mane, pellet daisy above, pellet under tail, pellet triad and ANTĐ monogram below. Double moon emblem on vertical wreath (ABC 1645).

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@Ryro, do you know how to tell the difference between Nezak coins struck 480-560 AD, and the coins struck by the Turks after 560 AD which continue to use Nezak legends?  I do not.  The Zeno categories are:

Both have bull-head crowns.  Here is a bull-head crown, but I can't tell which type it is.  I think it is the later Western Turk type, but I am uncertain.


630-711 AD?  2.23g (but it has a little chip) 28mm
Obv: Pahlavi lengd NAPKI MALKA; Nezak Malka type, bull's head crown
Rev: Fire altar with two attendents

Edited by Ed Snible
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Current thinking divides the Asiatic "Huns" into four major groups: Kidarites, Hephthalites, Alchons and Nezaks. At one time, "Hephthalites" was a sort of catch-all term for the various Hunnic groups, and would have included the Nezaks. Nowadays "Hephthalites" or "True Hephthalites" is used more specifically. Part of the problem is that Greek, Byzantine and Arab historians tended to paint what they didn't understand with a broad brush. This wikipedia article on the Nezaks is quite good (not always the case for wikipedia) and reflects the range of modern theory:


@Ed Snible I can't think of a simple way to explain the difference between the subgroups and I'm not sure Zeno has it completely right. To my eye, your coin is Gobl 198, one of the quintessential early Nezak varieties. 


Edited by DLTcoins
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I have an example of the OP Hephthalite coin:


As for "lost peoples", that would probably be most of the coins I collect!  For example, the Parthians, though they ruled over Persia, were not Persians and had their origins on the steppes in what is now Turkmenistan (but they weren't Turks, either).  


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The trouble is that "Hunnic" looking (Asiatic eye, cranial deformation) people lived in Central Asia long before the actual Huns arrived, so it's difficult to make accurate assessments of how the Huns differed from others.

Burkhara king "Hyrcodes" ca 100 BC - probably closer to Scythian in affiliation than HunnicBukharaHirkodhyrcodeshemidrachmsoldier.jpg.234757f4d8f179f2dbe3413d39c44826.jpg


Proto-Kushan king "Heraios" - the Yueh Chi were pushed out of the Eastern steppes by the Huns before becoming the Kushans under 



The earliest "Hunnic" coins are simple imitations of Sassanian coins, mostly Shapur II


Nobody knows whether the central Asian huns are the tribes that called Atilla their king, but the European huns apparently didn't mint coins. The four major tribes of Asian Huns were the

Kidarites, who began minting earlier(?) Than the others, wrestling control of northwestern India and Afghanistan/Pakistan from the Kushans and the Kushano-Sassanians. Their coinage is arguably the most varied, and I only have a few examples 

Peroz "III" was probably a Kidarite


Kidara, from whom the Kidarites got their namesake




And Durlabhi Deva, a late king (imitating a very late Kushan dinar)


The Sassanians didn't like that the Kidarites stopped the tribute payments that they had enjoyed from the Kushano-Sassanians, and so allied with the Hephthalites to destroy them. Peroz and the Hephthalites were victorious, but double crossed each other, went to war, and Peroz was forced to ransom himself and his son when they were taken as POWs. All known Hephthalite coins imitate Peroz drachms, with four pellets added to the obverse margins



The Alchon huns apparently occupied the power vacuum left by the collapse of the Kidarites and eventual extinction of the Kushan rump states. They expanded significantly once the Gupta Empire fractured.01987q00.jpg.18eba3b046b73c0551cbe6e2428004ee.jpg


The Nezak Huns kept to their holdings in Kabul and were the last autonomous Huns.


I'm uncertain of the importance of the "trident" crown?NezakAlchonAEdrachmfirealtar.jpg.1d536eb5c71acad9f39114b44639f0d5.jpg

The Alchons were driven from India suddenly and very violently in about 670; coinage seems to indicate that the Alchon sought refuge and were absorbed by the Nezak, as evidenced by coins depicting a Nezak king with a prominent alchon tamgha as the reverse design 


All of the Huns were conquered by the Turks who continued the numismatic legacy of striking Hunnic and vaguely Sassanian coins until the Islamic takeover

Nezak with Turk tamghas replacing attendants


"Phoro" type imitating Hormizd IV, with king's portrait countermarked  at 6:00


Imitating Khusro I, swastika replacing mint name


"Vajara Vasudeva" a Turk warlord, loosely based on Ardashir III


"Tegin of Khorasan" loosely based on a very rare Khusro II reverse


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And more in my subject of obsession -

All Indo Sassanian coins are imitations of silver drachms of Peroz I, but they are heavier, finer, and lack the obverse pellets found on proper Hephthalite coins, thus they are *not* continuations of that series. Maheshwari in his boom "Imitations in Continuity" posits that the earliest Gadhaiya coins were introduced by a nomadic mercenary tribe who were more amicable with the natives and allowed to remain behind when the Alchon huns got the boot - eventually becoming the Gujjar people.

Whether that is true or not, some of the early iterations of Gadhaiya coinage looks undeniably Hunnic


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On 7/30/2023 at 10:08 PM, Finn235 said:

"Vajara Vasudeva" a Turk warlord, loosely based on Ardashir III

These are now attributed to a king named Sandan, with the former name "Vakhudeva" more properly translated as "Lord of the Oxus". Vondrovec gives the full readings (following Sims-Williams) of the legends on the obverse as "sri candana vakhudevah", "His Perfection Candana, Lord of the Oxus" and "σρι βαγο αζροβδδιγο σανδανο βαγο χοαδηο", "His Perfection, the Lord, the Chiliarch Sandano, His Perfection, the Lord"

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