At the beginning of the Gadhaiya Paisa track is a series of enigmatic coins. Significantly more diverse than any other series, these remain something of a mystery. Leading theories hold that these were either brought into India from Hepthalite and other Hunnic tribes in the 6th-8th centuries, or that they are a native invention inspired by the coinage of the invaders. My readings seem to indicate that they originate outside of Gujarat at any rate, centralized in NW India. For the time being, and absent any raw data on actual hoard contents and find spots, I will attempt to refrain from any wild speculation and present these from a purely stylistic standpoint. The incredible variety present herein seems to argue that there is a huge spread here, but whether temporal, cultural, or simply artistic tastes of individual celatores, I cannot comment. I will attempt to place these into buckets based on style, but keep in mind that many (or all) of these sub-series were probably made concurrently.
**Added: Maheshwari attributes these coins to the Gurjjar people, a warrior clan who originated in Central Asia. They supposedly migrated with the Hephtalites and/or Alchons during their invasion of India in the 500s as something between slaves and mercenaries-for-hire. They ultimately settled Gujarat permanently, and went on to found the Chaulukya dynasty - They ruled a small princely state there until the unification of India after 1947, and today are registered as a minority "Other Backwards Caste". **
Some consideration points for the series:
Area - NW India/Afghanistan/Pakistan Time period - 500-700 AD? Attributed to - Huns, Gurjuras, Chavdas Overall rarity - Less common to Extremely rare Price range - $15 - $100+
Fabric Flan diameter - Large (20-25mm) Die size - Smaller than flan Typical centering - Fair Strike quality - Poor Thickness - Thin Weight - 3.7 - 4.1g Typical wear - Heavily worn Silver purity - High (90-95%)
General: - All are copies of Peroz I's third crown type drachm, featuring a winged helmet and royal ribbons flanking the portrait on either side. The reverse features a fire altar flanked by two attendants, star/sun and moon above. - These tend to be very high quality (90% or higher) silver and struck on reasonably thin, broad flans. They conform to a tight weight standard of about 3.8-4.1g, and diameter is 21-24mm in most cases. - Most are poorly struck, usually with large areas that are entirely smooth. - Most lack fine detail (in particular the faces of the attendants). Compared to the later Gadhaiya Paisa, however, most of these are very stylish and reflect that the individual coin may have been subject to the whims and skill of the celator. - Variety is staggering; nearly every coin I have ever seen from this series could be said to be a separate variety. Die matches are seemingly very rare. - The flan is almost always larger than the die, and the die border is comprised of a ring of what resembles shark's teeth. Some examples have design elements pass over and beyond this die border.
Portrait: - Styles and executions vary widely; few approach the levels of artistry seen on official Peroz drachms (a very, very few exceed it), but examples range from lifelike to schematized and cartoonish. - All examples have a winged crown, helmet or hat - All examples wear a pearl or beaded necklace - All examples have shoulder pads beneath the portrait - All examples have one ribbon before and one ribbon behind the portrait. Ribbons are composed of a "top" of three horizontal lines, and a "bottom" that is a thin curvy, roughly S-shaped line. On this series only, the bottom of the ribbon is often comprised of two, three, or four separate strokes. - All examples have a hair bun behind the portrait, but it quickly becomes unrecognizable as such - Most/All examples portray an earring, usually with three pearls; two attached to a chain, while the third is supsended beneath the other two. - Most examples portray a beard. - Few examples portray an orb above the helmet. - Characteristic of this series, the helmet often has a decorative element at the top that can be compared to an antenna. - Very few coins I have encountered show the crescent located at the front of Peroz's crown in official coins - Many (but not all) examples have an unusually wide brim on the hat, sometimes extending all the way to the end of the die. - No examples have a legend, pseudo-legend, or tamgha anywhere on the obverse - Unlike the contemporary imitations from Central Asia, these coins never have four pellets around the obverse die border.
Fire Altar: - Fire altar is composed of 4 parts: (from top to bottom) The Flame, the Bowl, the Shaft, and the Base. - Like the Peroz prototype, the Flame is usually a pyramid of dots arranged into even rows. The flame forms a triangular shape, usually by removing one dot for every row upward from the base. This is most commonly 4-3-2-1, but can also be 5-4-3-2-1. Some styles portray a solid flame, or tightly clustered dots or lozenge shapes that do not form lines. - The bowl holds the flame, and is comprised of three horizontal lines, with the top being the widest. Most examples have crescent shapes on either side of the bowl, resembling parentheses. This is almost certainly a misunderstanding of certain coins of Peroz (and their imitations) in which the attendants gesture toward the flame. - The shaft is a vertical pole that connects the bowl to the base. It begins as a rectangle, and often presents as a lozenge or diamond shape. It is quite small on many specimens. - Two ribbons hang from the bottom of the fire altar bowl. On the original Peroz and very early imitations, these hang downward at roughly a 30 or 45 degree angle away from the fire altar shaft. Some do not have ribbons, but most portray the attendants holding the ribbon, which sags toward the middle. - The base is at the bottom of the fire altar, and is three horizontal lines which mirror the bowl. - Above the fire altar are a moon and a star or sun. On the Peroz prototype, the sun is at the left, and the moon is at the right. These can follow the "correct" pattern, or the positions can be switched. A small minority of coins seem to have two moons.
Attendants: - Both attendants wear dresses and have what appear to be breasts, so I take that to mean that they are both female. I really don't know if that is the correct interpretation, however. - Unique to this series, both attendants wear a "thorn dress" or "herringbone" which is decorated with small points or spikes sticking out away from the body. These are very subtle on earlier coins, but many "late" coins take this to such extremes that the attendants almost look like fish skeletons. A minority of coins have dots rather than lines (as on the original Peroz) and some have a more realistic, three-dimensional dress. - The attendants usually wear a necklace; this can be a solid line, or a string of dots. - The attendants have one visible arm, which bends at the elbow to motion toward the fire altar/hold the ribbon. The arm never has a hand, and can either bend sharply or curve smoothly at the elbow. - The attendants very rarely have facial features; the head is usually just a dot or tall oval. - Some attendants have clear legs beneath the dress, while others have stubby dots beneath, or nothing at all. - Some "late" styles reduce the dress to what appears to be a skirt; the spikes are still present, however. - Very rarely, some examples have pseudo-legends or decorative lines behind one or both attendants, where the mint and name would be present on an official Peroz drachm.
Within this series, I will group my coins into the following sub-series:
1.1.1 - "Gurjura" Early Style Imitative 1.1.2 - "Hun Profile" 1.1.3 - Fancy hat type, large square jaw 1.1.4 - Fancy hat type, pointed nose 1.1.5 - Uncertain intermediate types 1.1.6 - Line style I 1.1.7 - Line Style II 1.1.8 - Line Style III
These somewhat rare coins are a close technical copy of original Peroz I drachms, so I take them to be first in this series. Not especially breathtaking from an artistic standpoint, but placed side by side with the original, the shape and proportions of the head, crown, wings, shoulder pads, necklace, fire altar, and attendants are a very good match. Importantly, however, are some simplifications, perhaps due to a lack of artistic skill on the part of the celator: - The portrait looks straight ahead rather than slightly upward (This is sometimes seen on official coins). - The brim of the hat becomes flat. - The eye becomes simplified, showing as a circle on my example, or as a dot on others I have seen. - The brow is furrowed and very straight. - The ribbons become three parallel horizontal lines and are no longer 3D nor slanted as on the original. - There is never an obverse legend. - The attendants are stylized differently than on the Sassanian prototype. They have a very tall, very thin body, and we can see the first instance of the "thorn dress" albeit the portrusions are somewhat faint on this coin. - These coins usually retain imitative legends on the reverse, behind the attendants. These can be almost-legends or decorative lines. My example possibly has cursive Bactrian "ALCHOON" which--assuming it's not just a scribbly line--further attests that these coins were inspired by the Hun invaders of the 6th century.
1.1.1 Coin 1 25mm 4.00g
For the time being, this is sadly my only coin of this sub-series... they do not often show up on eBay. The simplifications are already apparent, but all things considered, this is still a remarkably good technical copy of an official Peroz drachm. Compare against this official coin from the GWL mint:
One of the most remarkable things (in my eye) about this coin is the early appearance of the thorn dress for the attendants. It has no other precedence--it is not present on any official Peroz coin, nor on any proper Hunnic coin. It is an original development, and inexplicably one that will bind this entire, incredibly diverse series.
Also unique to these very early types, we can see a remnant of a legend behind each attendant. Highlighted here:
This is admittedly a junk bin category. Pretty much the only common factor of these coins is that the portrait is different and distinctly "Hunnic", that is, Iranian or Central Asian. These tend to show a higher degree of artistic skill and flair, and often the portrait sports a large nose and no beard. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the placement of these coins within this sub-series, since there is no logical progression from any Point A to Point B.
1.1.2 Coin 1 22mm 4.15g
This coin is a real stand-out; both uncommonly realistic for any Indian-made Peroz prototype, and also of a very deliberate style. Here the whole portrait sits very large and well-centered on the coin, characterized by a pointed nose, small downward-sloping moustache, and heavy, squared, bearded jaw. The eye unfortunately is obscured by an area of flat-strike, as is the upper head gear. The shoulders are much larger than typical for this series, and give the impression that the textured shoulder pads might in fact be a sort of cape attached at a brooch at the chest. The neck is large and thick; the beaded necklace quite prominent. The ear is large, slightly pointed, and adorned by a three-pearl earring. What we can see of the hat indicates a sort of textured helmet flanked by small wings, and the brim extends on either side to the edge of the die - a single line of dots. The ribbons are large and carefully arranged to fill the empty space in front of and behind the portrait, but the bottom portion of the ribbon seems to extend from the top portion, touch the shoulder pads, and then trail off the die. The hair bun is a large, 8 or 9-rayed star behind the portrait.
The most prominent feature of the reverse is a tall, somewhat tilted fire altar with a very short, squat flame of indistinct dots. It is difficult to tell whether or not the reverse suffers from a double strike, but the shaft appears as a thin tall column with a central decoration or bulge. A small moon is crammed in the upper left; the upper right is not entirely clear, but I suspect it is a second moon.
The attendants display the typical thorn dress, curved sharply backward and with prominent breasts. Interestingly, the dress becomes indistinct past the arm, and there seem to be small dots for the legs. Each attendant wears a necklace with six beads, and has a long, smoothly curving arm. Of very great importance, the left attendant's second arm bends at an elbow - the only such detail I have seen on these coins! The left attendant also has something resembling a face, as well as a few stray dots at the top of the head - perhaps some sort of hairdo?
*Edit to add:
I'm not sure how I missed it until now, and I am not sure if I am just imagining this, but take a look at this right attendant:
If that is indeed a face looking away from the fire altar, this is by a pretty wide margin the most incredible feature of any Indo-Sassanian coin I have seen thus far!
A personal favorite, this one unfortunately has a mostly flat-struck portrait, but is otherwise in excellent condition. A bit more in line with the original Peroz, the portrait of this king looks slightly upward, and the ribbons are also tilted, although they still display as the simplified lines typical of this style. There is a beard running around the back of the king's jaw, but it doesn't seem to wrap all the way around to his chin. He is also sporting a small mustache or fu manchu, which is not often seen in this coin type. The nose is also characteristically large for this type, and the hat only bears a passing resemblance to Peroz's crown - it appears to be a winged skull cap with no brim, and the orb is incredibly small if not completely nonexistent.
On the reverse, the basic formula for the fire altar is the same, but the top is much wider than most, and the rows of flame-pellets are uneven and seem to follow a 5-4-3-1 pattern. The attendants are highly stylized and already approaching the "fish bone" look here. Unusually, the parentheses shapes (attendants' other arm/hand) curves outward away from the flame, not inward.
Closely related to our Coin 2, but with a smaller, chubbier bust of less careful style. Again with the same striking issues, this one has surface troubles that may be attributable to either a double strike, overstrike, or simply careless flan preparation. The portrait follows the same mold, but has a wider, cubbier cheek, puffy lips, and a tiny, pointy nose. It is also crammed further to the left of the die, and is a bit more angled, like the king is leaning in from behind something!
The fire altar is almost the same here, although it seems to shift in the middle; perhaps a double strike at play? We can clearly see a little sun at the left and a moon at the right, and as with the last coin, the flame is very wide and squat to fit it on the die.
Very interestingly, the attendants' dresses are depicted by a single thick line, which branches out at the bottom to make the hem of the dress - clearly not all coins in this series follow the "thorn dress" rule so carefully! The head and necklace are quite well and carefully engraved, and we see the arm is bent sharply at the elbow, and engraved with two strokes.
Quite a unique style, this one is characterized by a tiny, pointed nose, pursed lips, and a very small ear that sits directly under the brim of the hat. The hair bun is an indistinct blob hovering behind the head, and the lower portion of the ribbons are made up of two disconnected crescents. The hat is not in relief, and is decorated with a crescent. The brim of the hat is narrow, and there is a prominent "antenna" decoration coming from the top of the hat. The orb is visible, but weakly struck and indistinct - easy to miss if you weren't looking for it!
The reverse, curiously, is of very fine style. The attendants have gracefully curving bodies with solid dresses. Unlike the usual type where the hem of the dress splits at about knee length, this shows the hem as a slanted line which curiously extends beyond the dress. No legs are seemingly present. The attendants' heads are tall ovals with no facial features, although the necklaces are carefully and prominently engraved, each with five pearls. The attendants' far arm remains close to the body, and is distinct from the fire altar. The right attendant's far arm is extremely small!
The fire altar is well-proportioned, with large flame dots in a 4-3-2-1 pattern. The sun is at the left as an indistinct pom pom shape, and the moon is at the right; a barely discernable crescent. The shaft is a tall thin pillar, and the ribbons are a sash made of dots, sagging in the middle and held by each attendant.
This was one of my favorites the first time around, and remains so today!
The portrait is the most striking feature of this coin, with a large, pointed nose, large lips, small chin, and tall head. The eye is unusually present, albeit weakly struck. Heavy wear and flat struck areas sadly limit detailed analysis of many of the portrait's features, although we can see that the "antenna" here has largely merged with the hat. The ribbons are carefully arranged to fill in nearly all of the obverse die, leaving almost no negative space on the obverse. Unusually, the bottom portion of the ribbon connects between the necklace and shoulder pads.
The reverse is quite simplistic, characterized by a large fire altar with a large and wide bowl, large and wide base, and a very small shaft (unfortunately flat-struck here). The flame seems to follow a 4-3-2-1 pattern, but the sun (depicted as a single dot with 8 rays emanating from it) is on the right side, not the left. The moon is off-flan.
The attendants are small and simply engraved--the head is a dot only slightly larger than those around it, while the body is a thin line with very faint and crudely engraved thorns. No legs are present, and the arms are simply engraved, bending at the elbow. The necklace of five pearls wraps confusedly around the head.
A particularly interesting feature of this coin is a textured pattern of a straight line and criss-crossed lines in a flat-struck area beneath the right shoulder pad - I believe this is a remnant of the flan preparation process, although I am not sure what it indicates.
This coin is of the same type as Coin 5, although I sold it in mid-2017. Intriguingly, it appears to be more or less a die match to Coin 5 - quite a rarity within this type!
The portrait is sadly flat struck in the rear, although we can see the details of the face. In particular, we can see a slightly furrowed brow, and the first clear appearance of a line that bisects the pupil - a mysterious feature we will explore much more in-depth at a later date!
The reverse is mostly flat struck on the left side, although the right side is more clearly struck. The attendant here is more clearly presented, although the head is very slighlty more elongated than on Coin 5 - I am unsure if this indicates that a different die was used, or simply that die wear developed over time. Here the arm is quite well presented as two long lines, meeting at a right angle. The body is also more delicately present, and we can see some faint thorns coming from the dress.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn't bring this back up for discussion. It could be coincidence, but I feel strongly inclined to say that these two coins may have been inspired by the Hunnic overlords once served by the Gurjjars. Compare to this artist's impression, compiled from literary descriptions and archaeological remains:
The Huns were known practitioners of headbinding, or cranial deformation of their infants through wrapping the head in tight bandages. While precious few literary works from the Huns themselves survive, they were noted for practicing cheek scarification; cutting their faces ostensibly to prevent the growth of a full beard, and also to mourn a fallen commander or chief. This is intriguing because the kings beard is such a prominent feature of most coins of series 1.1, and all subsequent series in this track until it fizzled out in the mid-1300s. Sub-series 1.1.2 is the only one to feature clean-shaven busts!
Good question Ron. It was certainly done by most or all of the leading classes, and I believe the bulk of their warrior castes as well - I am not sure if the peasantry practiced it or not.
I tried doing some research on the subject, but it is hard to find sources on the Huns - most want to talk about either the pre-Columbian native Americans, or the African tribes that still practice it today. Couldn't even find many pictures of skeletons to compare.