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An interesting imitation owl - find location "Modern Persia"


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This coin arrived last week from the UAE.  I was told by the seller that the find location for this coin was Modern Persia, i.e., Iran.  The find location for this coin and others from the region is always tenuous, given the lack of definitive documentation, which for various reasons is nonexistent.  So, we are left with at best broad, quite vague hints of the find location.

This eastern imitation is unusual not only for its crudeness, which is undeniable, but also with some design features shared with imitative owls documented by Peter G van Alfen in his 2004 paper titled "A New Athenian 'Owl' and Bullion Hoard from the Near East".

Here's the owl.

Eastern imitation (possibly Persian) of intermediate Athenian owl, first half of the 4th century BC.

16.83 grams


That this coin is not of Athenian origin is obvious.  

What is quite striking about this example is the unusual treatment of the palmette, which should mimic the "phi style" of the Athenian tetradrachms of the 4th - 3rd centuries BC.  No attempt here.  Instead, the obverse's  palmette is shown as a three vertical curved lines, sharing, in a general sense, the flowing vertical floral design seen on later Athenian new style tetradrachms, although I sure there's no direct connection. Additionally the leaves on the helmet's rim are very pointed, and the overall engraving is very basic and crude, even by eastern imitation owl. standards.

On the reverse is an equally crude owl.  The "A" appears to be rotated, with the base pointing to the top of the theta (Θ).  It is this similarity that this coin shares with some of the plate coins in the van Alfen paper, Style Group III.  The obverse of my coin is quite different in style, though, compared to that group, which by the way has matched obverse dies.  Do the lack of palmette detail with this group of owls, I cannot determine the style used.  I imagine that it is close to the phi style of the Athenian intermediate owls, as can be seen with Style Group Ia. 


Here's a plate from the paper showing miscellaneous imitations.  The variety of designs is quite remarkable, including on coin with a left facing Athena (#71).  Additionally, the phi style palmette of #70 is rotated to point at the edge of a leaf, instead of the rim of the helmet and ear.


Here's the full paper:

A New Athenian 'Owl' and Bullion Hoard from the Near East 2004 8-14-23.pdf

So, where doe this put the original posted owl in the scheme of eastern imitations?  Van Alfen thinks that some the imitations might have originated Babylonia, during the first half of the 4th century BC, prior to the conquests of Alexander III and the subsequent flood of his coinage.  My coin might have such an origin, traveling around the region before being deposited in what was then Ancient Persia.   



Edited by robinjojo
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Thanks.  I do not have any immediate plans to remove the horn silver.  My concern is that it might have some underlying corrosion. 

The horn silver is part of the coin's history and character, so I'm inclined to leave things well enough alone.

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