The archaic Indian punch marked coins: A glimpse of Sonepur hoard type coin

August 6, 2011 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

Following report is from http://www215.pair.com/sacoins/public_html/shailenspaper.htm

Introduction:

The word ‘Archaic’ has been used here to denote the series often known as the ‘Janapada’ series of Indian Punch-marked coins. Any discussion regarding the term can be dispensed with as researchers in this field are too familiar with it.  The term broadly differentiates the known range of PMCs into two general classes. One of them is the more familiar class comprising of coins with five symbols punched upon them – the class that is widely known as the ‘Imperial’ or ‘Magadhan’ PMCs and is thought to have formed the currency of the Magadhan empire down to the Mauryam times. These coins as a class exhibit certain characteristics such as weight, fabric and the number of punches or symbols that remain constant and may not be used as effective classification parameters. Their findspots are widespread across the known extents of the Magadhan empire and as such it can be safely generalised that they formed a uniform currency which was most likely controlled by the Magadhan burocracy. These coins have been extensively studied by Gupta and Hardaker whose seminal monograph remains the best reference to access them academically.

The other class is much less studied in comparison to the Imperial PMCs. It is the coins of this class and their classification that the paper primarily deals with. Although the main objective is to discuss the classification, certain other important aspects regarding the coinage will also be brought out, especially in the commentary that will accompany the slides after the main paper is over.

 Codrington recorded the first of these coins in an article in which he dealt with coins that were reported from Dhank in Saurashtra. These coins continued to be ascribed to ‘Konkan’ after a possible confusion, which cannot be traced effectively, of the provenance to a homonymous town not situated far from Bombay. Scholarly attention was drawn to coins of this class in the early decades of this century by Durga Prasad and E.H.C. Walsh, who discussed some varieties of these coins in their papers. Later P. L. Gupta devoted considerable attention to these coins, both in his doctoral dissertation (which unfortunately remains unpublished) and in several miscellaneous articles and papers. In 1969, the first edition of his masterly handbook ‘Coins’ appeared, in which he published his views on the classification of these coins in a summarised form. Mitchiner published a monograph on the earliest Indian coins, in which the archaic PMCs featured prominently. The contributions by Hardaker, McIntyre and Cribb may be cited as the latest attempts to study and categorize a group of these coins in a systematic fashion.

As a class characteristic, the coins are much more varied than the Imperial PMCs. They vary in weight, fabric, size, techniques of manufacture and most importantly the provenance. The paper deals with a brief outline of attempts to classify the coins and the approaches one may adopt towards their systematic classification. Needless to say, the classification of these coins assumes great significance when viewed from the standpoint of methodology, because classification is often the first step adopted in a scientific study.

‘Intrinsic’ and ‘Extrinsic’ approaches:

Broadly the approaches to classification may be categorized as ‘Intrinsic’ and ‘Extrinsic’. The intrinsic approaches would be limited to those aspects borne by the coins themselves, whereas the extrinsic approaches will be those that are not prima-facie inherent in the coin when it is examined. Classifiaction criteria such as weight, the variety and nature of punches or symbols, the techniques of manufacture,  and denominational patterns would serve as examples of the intrinsic approaches to classification. These will be discussed below, concentrating on their utility as criteria for classification and their suitability for detailed analysis.

The Nature of Punches / Symbols: As a general observation, the variation encountered in the nature of symbols while dealing with the Archaic PMCs is less to a certain degree than the Imperial PMCs. Symbols are predominantly more of a geometric nature, and bear fewer signs of a pictorial origin. The intricacy of the symbols is also worth noting. They can be distinguished in two main classes. In the first class symbols or marks which are specific may be grouped together. By ‘specific’ I mean that these symbols occur on coins that have a strong geopolitical orientation in terms of their find-spots. In other words, the ‘specific’ symbols occur on coins of series from certain geographic areas. The ‘pulley’, the ‘rayed circles’ seen on the ‘bent bars’ and the ‘3-S’ mark that characterises certain series of coins encountered chiefly in the Gangetic valley are examples of specific symbols. The other class comprises the ‘general’ symbols, which as opposed to the ‘specific’ ones may exhibit intra-serial shifts. Most of the non-geometric and less abstruse symbols, like the animate forms such as the elephant, can be called ‘general’ symbols. It must be noted, however, that even though a given symbol may be grouped as ‘general’ by virtue of its nature, it may exhibit ‘specific’ forms. This may sometimes cause the categorization of that symbol as ‘specific’, not in nature but in form. Some examples of ‘specific’ and ‘general’ symbols are illustrated here. (PRESENT)

It is extremely interesting to note that there exists at least one series that bears  symbols that could be otherwise classified as ‘specific’. This is the series known chiefly from the Bareilly region and represented by the Lotapur hoard that now lies in the collections of the Lucknow museum. Some coins of this hoard, while retaining regiospecific peculiarities in terms of weight and fabric with other coins, exhibit the ‘rayed circles’ of the ‘bent bar’ coins, the ‘3-S’ of the Gangetic valley coins and the ‘pulley’ of the Sultanpur hoard type coins. The last mentioned occurrence is yet unpublished, while the other coins can be seen listed in the thesis of P. L. Gupta. The reason for this inter-serial shift in specific symbols remains a mystery.

The Number of Punches: This is by far the most objective of the intrinsic approaches to classify the Archaic PMCs.  A scheme of classification may be illustrated with the help of this slide. (PRESENT) As a general observation, the coins may be categorized as single, double or quadruple marked coins.

The coins bearing a single punch may further be classified as uniface and biface. The biface coins actually bear two punches and may look like die-struck coins. But the facts that the second punch,  usually on the reverse, has been applied after the first one without offering any protection to it and that it occupies only a certain portion of the reverse field helps maintain their status as PMCs. Also the overall impression that these biface coins carry is that of single-punched coins. Hence their inclusion in this category. The small coins encountered in Western Malwa are good examples of biface Archaic PMCs, while coins of the Mathura region and those from the Sultanpur hoard serve as examples of the uniface varieties. A third group of the ‘single-punched’ coin consists of those pieces, which bear the punch struck more than once. Here again, technically these coins may not be ‘single-punched’ but their overall appearance betrays their nature as such and the last punch serves as the most prominent, obliterating the others below it. The Archaic PMCs from Saurashtra can serve as examples of this group.

The double-marked coins may further be classified into those bearing the same punch twice and those bearing two different punches, struck on  one side only without obliterating the other to any great extent. Examples of the both groups include certain fractional units from the lower Gangetic valley, illustrated by Hardaker.

The coins with quadruple marks form the most interesting and extensive series of the Archaic PMCs. The first group of these includes the coins which have two pairs of symbols punched on them. Thus essentially the number of symbols remains two, but the coin betrays an impression of a four-symbol coin. Such coins are chiefly encountered in the lower Gangetic valley, in the area between Allahabad and Varanasi, chiefly from the districts of Mirzapur and Ghazipur. The second group consists of coins having essentially three symbols, two struck separately, while the third is represented in a pair. At times, the marks forming the pair can be diminutive as compared to the two separate ones, as illustrated by coins of the Bhabua hoard. But mostly, all four symbols display the same degree of prominence. Coins belonging to this class are chiefly encountered in upper and lower Gangetic valley, and also in the Deccan. Some of the coins from the Gangetic valley from this class have a symbol struck three times. This is the symbol that usually forms the pair. But the occurrence of such coins is very low and as such they may not be categorised as a separate class. The third group is the least extensive of the four-punch coins. It includes coins with two symbols, one struck once and the other three times. So far only one group of such coins has been encountered and its provenance is not reliably ascertained, although they are said to have been found in the Jhansi region. The coins of the fourth and last group have four symbols, all of them different. By far they are the most widely distributed coins among the Archaic PMCs. They are encountered in the upper and lower Gangetic valley, Malwa and Chhattisgarh. It is interesting to note that some of the coins from Gangetic valley that show four symbols, have one of them struck twice. But in this case the occurrence is low and therefore they are not categorised as a different group.

Manufacturing techniques: The archaic PMCs can be grouped on the basis of the technique by which they are manufactured. The manufacturing process can be divided into two main stages – a) making the blanks and b) manufacturing coins from the blanks. It would be appropriate to say that the classification in this case depends only on the technique to produce the blanks, that is process (a). Process (b) remained virtually the same for all coins, because all of them were made from the blanks by multiple striking. On close observation it becomes evident that two main techniques were used to produce the blanks – cutting them through a sheet of silver, and making use of flattened globules. The factor that leads one to this conclusion is the appearance of the edges of coins. Coins made out of blanks that were cut from sheets exhibit sharp and dorsi-ventrally tapering edges, whereas coins manufactured from flattened globules have rounded edges with minute vertical furrows. The technique to produce globules has been widely discussed by Gupta, Bhardwaj and others. But most of the methods that have been suggested by them are scientifically inaccurate and industrially not viable. Especially, the contention of Gupta and Lahiri that a pre-determined quantity of molten metal was dropped in water to yield a globule is fantastic. It is impossible to measure molten metal to a corresponding accurate solid weight in a volumetric manner and liquid metal dropped in water would behave as two immiscible liquids would – it will disperse into several tiny droplets, which upon shock-cooling yield not one, but many tiny globules. An offshoot of the manufacturing process has yielded some Archaic PMCs with a scyphate shape. Examples of this process are the well-known coins from Varanasi region and those from the Sultanpur hoards. The technique to manufacture these coins still remains to be satisfactorily elucidated. While commenting on the Sultanpur coins Gupta has envisaged a process in which the metal was stamped with the punch bearing the symbol while still being in a ‘semi-molten’ state, similar to sealing wax. He further comments that this has caused the edges of the coins to bulge upward in a rounded fashion, giving them their distinct scyphate shape. This explanation is metallurgically and technically inaccurate. Metals do not exhibit a ‘plastic’ state while they convert from liquid to solid form. At best they exhibit an increased malleability that varies directly with the temperature, as the metal cools down it becomes harder. So there is no room for a metal to remain in a ‘semi-molten’ stage. Moreover, in case of the Sultanpur hoard type coins, recent discovery of restruck pieces showing vestiges of the previous punch on the reverse clearly demonstrate that Gupta’s view is not tenable. As regards the formation of ‘droplets’ or ‘globules’ it has been observed that a pre-weighed piece of metal like silver, if fired in a free standing manner, automatically assumes a spherical form when molten. If this sphere is allowed to cool naturally, a globule is formed that can then be flattened to yield a coin blank. Globules of silver according to various weight requirements are even today made by placing pre-weighed pieces of silver wire on a charcoal bed, and arranging many such beds in layers in a kiln which can be then fired to melt the pieces. As the kiln is allowed to cool, the molten silver solidifies giving globules, which are then separated from the charcoal simply by sifting. The technical and industrial efficiency of this process leaves no doubt that the manufacturing of globules to yield blanks of archaic PMCs was indeed undertaken by the same process in ancient India.

Denominational patterns: the metrology of PMCs and ancient Indian coins in general has been widely discussed and it would suffice here to say that, for the Archaic PMCs, two standards seem to be under operation – one based on 100 rattis and the other on 32 rattis. Classicists have identified the previous standard as ‘Satamana’ and the latter as ‘Karshapana’. Broadly it can be suggested that the 100 rattis standard was in vogue in the NWFP region and the Gangetic valley except Bihar, while the 32 ratti standard prevailed in other areas and Bihar. Significant regional variations can be apparent. Care needs to be taken in metrological examination especially of the fractional units, because the weight standard was based as multiples of the weight of a natural product, the seed of Abrus precatorius which exhibited considerable variation in its weight depending upon the climatic conditions in which the plant grew. Mitchiner has explained the point in a scientific manner.

Ancillary or ‘Shroff’ marks: These remain to be the least studied aspect of the Archaic PMCs. A casual examination of the coins leads us to conclude that for most series, they appear to be stylistically specific and therefore can be utilised as an effective classification adjunct. They are an important tool to build inter-serial chronology, an exercise that has practically never been accomplished and offers great promise as a methodological tool for studying the archaic PMCs. The peculiarity about the ‘shroff’ marks is that they seems to be confined mostly to the Gangetic plains. The only other exception is the bars from the NWFP region. The similarity between the marks on these bars and the Achamaenian Sigloi is well known and has been constructively utilised in the past to tackle the difficult question regarding the origins of coinage in India. However, it remains of only a historiographic significance and a similar study has not been attempted for any other series of archaic PMCs. A systematic study and classification of the ‘shroff’ marks on archaic PMCs from the Gangetic plains will not only serve to classify the coins themselves from a different perspective, it will also lead to certain key-points for the internal chronology of the coins. This will augment the role of these coins, which  otherwise remain ‘silent’, as source of historical information. For example, it has been observed that an identical ‘shroff’ mark (PRESENT) occurs on some coins of the Narhan hoard type as well as on some that belong to a series that is presently being attributed to the ‘Kosala’ region. This indicates that although the Narhan hoard type coins look much more primitive in their appearance, they actually circulated alongside the particular ‘Kosala’ series. This observation, when juxtaposed with the fact that a coin bearing a six-armed symbol in the center (PRESENT) (this has been recently attributed to Magadha as an early series by Gupta) was found in the Narhan hoard makes the picture clearer, giving us three distinct coin series that were more or less contemporary. The ‘shroff’ marks give an estimate of the degree of circulation of these coins and a systematic study will prove extremely beneficial to make preliminary generalisations about the economy of the Gangetic valley civilisation and its monetization. In  short, the ‘shroff’ marks on archaic PMCs need to be studied in much more detail.

Limitations of the intrinsic approaches:

Although the intrinsic approaches help to study the archaic PMCs extremely well from the standpoint of a micro-examination, there are certain limitations in adopting them as main classification adjuncts. The main drawback is that, excepting the case with ‘shroff’ marks, these approaches do not transcend the historical barrier and present the coins in a fragmentary manner, depending more on the inherent characteristics than their historicity. The lateral classification that is facilitated by aspects such as the denomination and the techniques of manufacture may not help in creating a picture in its entirety about a given series of the archaic PMCs. A classification of the archaic PMCs based primarily on the intrinsic approaches would lead the researcher nearer to certain aspects of the archaic PMCs, but will not be effective to construct a coherent and justifiable historical picture. In other words, most of the intrinsic approaches will lead to a purely ‘Numismatic’ study of these coins.

The Extrinsic Approaches:

These include aspects which are not inherent in the coins themselves, but deal with the provenance, hoard analysis and secondary historical sources. From a historiographic standpoint, the extrinsic approaches can be grouped into ‘Classicist’ and ‘Materialist’.

The Classicist approach derives directly from the Nationalist school of Indian History. By the early decades of this century, Western enthusiasm that culminated in rendering  most of the classical Indian literature accessible for scholarly review came to its end. The fruits which efforts of the likes of Max Mueller bore were now available to the second generation of Indian academics who used them as an important component for writing Ancient Indian history. In the absence of sufficient material evidence, the literature remained a primary source of historical information. Thus there evolved a school of historical writing, a school that is well-known for its ‘Indocentric’ approach. Less attention was paid to analysing the development of a particular text in its historical context, and most of the information that was contained in it was taken at face value. This led eventually to the virtual exclusion of material evidence, that was being made available by the science of Archaeology, often to the irony that it was either distorted to fit in with the literary evidenece, or discarded, if it did not! Initially the process seems to have concentrated on culling out the information pertaining to aspects of political history, but gradually attention turned towards  socio-economic aspects. The study of two Sanskrit manuscripts proved extremely important for the assessment of Ancient Indian socio-economic life – they were the Arthashastra by Kautilya and the Ashtadhyayi by Panini. While the first has been often regarded as an ancient Indian version of the ‘Prince’ by Macchiaveli, the second is a grammatical treatise that was first edited by Bohtlingk way back in the 19th century, but was used solely for linguistic purposes and not as a source of historical information. V. S. Agrawala paved the way for the utilisation of Panini in a historical perspective through his seminal work ‘India of Panini’s times’. Here for the first time we hear of the mention of denomination systems and words likeVimshatikaTryumshatikaPada, and Kakani which have become so superfluous in any discussion regarding the PMCs. In the Arthashastra, sufficient information is available to know about the technology of coin production. The other source of historical information was the Buddhist canons, or Jatakas, which were compiled by Rhys-Davids.  The Arthashastra is not very useful to study the archaic PMCs, mainly because of the fact that it is said to have been written by a confidante of Chandragupta Maurya, and that places it well after the establishment of Magadhan supremacy. But the Jatakas and Panini are certainly pertinent to the study and classification of the archaic PMCs. As an accumulation of stories that dealt with Buddha and his life, the Buddhist canon is replete with contemporary information, of both political and socio-economic nature. It is in theJatakas we hear about the ‘Janapadas’ that seem to have flourished almost contemporarily to the Buddha. The term is rather ambiguous, literally meaning the ‘abode of the people’. The attribution of most of the series of archaic PMCs to these ‘Janapadas’ was largely accomplished by P. L. Gupta, in his Doctoral research (1961), which was done under the guidance of the protagonist of the movement – V. S. Agrawala. Since then, it has been the most favoured approach to describe these coins. Gupta’s approach is essentially extrinsic, relying heavily on the information about the ‘Janapadas’ from literary sources and equating them with the series of coins depending on its provenance.

Criticism of the ‘Classicist’ approach:

It will be worth proceeding to a criticism of this approach. Although it prevails as the best attempt to classify the Archaic PMCs and to categorize them in terms that are easy for the numismatists to employ in research, it has some serious drawbacks. They can be grouped into methodological or technical drawbacks and the historical drawbacks. Needless to say, the second category has much wider implications than the first.

The methodological drawbacks: The main methodological drawback is fitting of the material evidence into the literary. The latter in most cases is extremely diffused in its nature. The number of ‘Janapadas’ and ‘Mahajanapadas’ varies from a staggering 173 as known from the Puranas to 16 that we know from the Buddhist texts. The term, as said previously, itself is very ambiguous – it can mean a locale, a town, a city, a district, a county, a country or even a nation! The Buddhist texts make mentions of tribal states – Buddha himself belonged to the Shakya tribe who had their own state in the Himalayan foothills – but these states are not included in the ‘Janapadas’. Secondly, the way in which these ‘Janapadas’ are described is very vague. We know nothing about their extent, or about the actual area that was controlled by each of them. As regards their political history, certain rulers are mentioned in the Jatakas, like Prasenajit of Kosala and Brahmadatta of Kashi, but beyond this and the fact that these personalities may have been contemporaries of the Buddha, nothing else is known about them. Certain politically important events have found repercussions in the Jatakas. Inference can be drawn that the kingdom of Kashi was assimilated by Kosala by the mention of the king of Kosala as ‘Varanasiggaho’ or ‘the conquerer of Varanasi’. The context in which the terms ‘Janapada’ or ‘Mahajanapada’ were employed is not clear. In the wake of such a diffused description, an attempt to classify the Archaic PMCs as belonging to only the 16 ‘Janapadas’ may at its best be described as arbitrary and unfounded. These inferences are anything but conclusive, and it would be hazardous to take them as a primary source of historical information. But this is exactly what has happened under the influence of the Indocentric school of writing of the ancient Indian history. One of the greatest fallacies of this approach is that it does not encourage objectivity and comparative interdisciplinary research. Instead, it treats the literary evidence as paramount and the discussion presented here will make the participants aware that this is not the case.

From the standpoint of numismatic methodology as well, the approach adopted by Gupta to classify the Archaic PMCs is not correct. While we know of the 16 ‘Janapadas’, we have many more series of these coins at our disposal. Many varieties became known since Gupta summarised his findings in his book ‘Coins’. A rigid attribution of all the known varieties of a particular series, depending solely on their find-spot distribution, to one of the 16 states is not scientific. The case here will be best described by the classification of the so-called ‘Kosala’ coins by Hardaker. A  close examination of  these coins reveals that they contain certain distinct series depending on the number of punches, fabric and ‘shroff’ marks. All of them need not be issues of ‘Kosala’. Even on the grounds of provenance, the attribution of all them to a single state is doubtful. For example the four-symbol coins with which his catalogue begins have two pairs of the symbols punched upon them, and it ends with the pieces from the Palia hoard, which, although retaining the ‘3-S’ symbol, are very different in fabric and the stylistic orientation of the ‘shroff’ marks. In between these two series, there are coins that have four different marks but are more akin to those at the beginning of the catalogue in their fabric. The underlying hypothesis for a sequential arrangement of these coins is the tenet ‘the thickness of the coin gradually increases along the time – thin coins are earlier than thick coins’. We all know that it worked very well for the Imperial series and they did fit into some kind of order based on this tenet. But it does not seem to work well for the archaic PMCs, even in a given series. In case of the ‘Kosala’ coins, those of the Palia hoard are not only different from the rest of the group, their find-spot is at least a couple of hundred miles apart from the classically known region known as ‘Kosala’. Similarly, the first group of Hardaker’s coins are chiefly encountered between Allahabad and Varanasi, and this region is also out of the reach of classical ‘Kosala’. Coins of the middle group are  represented by the Sahet-Mahet hoard, and its find-spot is the site of Sravasti,the ancient capital of ‘Kosala’. As such, on the basis of provenance they alone may be attributed to Kosala, but not the other groups.

The second example of the phenomenon where more than one distinct series have been found attributed to the same ‘Janapada’ is the four symbol coins found in central India. Most of them have an elephant, executed in a rustic and tribal form. These can be further classified into two broad classes, those with a pair of symbol and those having all four as different marks. Those with a pair can be further classified into several groups such coins having a tree as a fourth mark, those having an ‘omega’-like curved line as the fourth mark and so on. Most of these coins have been attributed to ‘Kalinga’, ‘Andhra’ and ‘Ashmaka’ in an absolutely arbitrary manner. They are represented by important hoards such as Snghavaram (A.P.), Nanded (Maharashtra) and Sonepur (Orissa). Many are found as stray finds all over the Narmada valley and the Deccan. When their findspots are plotted, a most interesting fact emerges – the types of these archaic PMCs are specific to valleys of certain rivers. The coins with the tree as the fourth mark are found along the upper Godavari valley. Those with the ‘omega’ mark are chiefly centred along the banks of Tapi and those having four different symbols (Sonepur hoard type) are chiefly found in the basin of Mahanadi (Chhattisgarh region). This fact indicates that they, in all probability, belong to certain estuarine economies to the south of the Vindhyas, about which nothing more is known as yet.

The third and last case to exemplify the fallacy of the approach to classify the coins as issues of ‘Janapadas’ is that of the Sultanpur hoard type coins (the ‘pulley’ type). No ‘Janapada’ is known to have existed in the region of their find-spot. The way out was to attribute them, first to ‘Ashmaka’ and then when it was realised that the location was far too south of the classical ‘Ashmaka’, to ‘Kuntala’ – another ephemeral classical area which would at best accommodate the find spot barely within its northern limits! These attempts to force ‘the Material’ into ‘the Literary’ are pathetic and lead the researcher on a totally different course. For example, classifying and attributing the four symbol coins just mentioned to ‘Ashmaka’ completely obliterates the fact that they are found along certain river banks, which is of a far reaching historical significance.

Historical drawbacks: From the historical standpoint, the approach to classify Archaic PMCs into various ‘Janapadas’ lacks justification from an extremely important angle. When the coins are attributed to certain ‘Janapadas’, it is implicit in the attribution that they are State issues. Today our knowledge about the State and its functions in the Gangetic valley is extremely limited. The texts which serve as the basis for attribution of the archaic PMCs to various ‘Janapadas’ contain very little information about the State. At best, it can be said that they indicate presence of monarchical states and republics in the Gangetic valley. But they are silent on what was the nature and function of these monarchies and republics. It may not be out of context here to take the case of mentions of the King of Varanasi as mentioned in the Jatakas. Several rulers of Varanasi are named ‘Brahmadatta’, and it is likely that the name is used more as a title. Elements of a sarcasm towards the ruling elite, against which the populist Buddhist Sangha was organised in its early days can not be ruled out. This is because ‘Brahmadatta’ can mean ‘given (supported) by the Brahmins’ and it is possible that the Buddhist canon is using the term in a derogatory manner to denote the pro-Brahmin stance of the Kings of Varanasi. This is accentuated further when they laud the ruler of Kosala for his capture of Varanasi. In short, the political accounts in these texts are often governed by the prejudices which their compilers submitted to, and this considerably reduces their objectivity as sources of historical information. Secondly, a vast amount of archaeological data needs to be analysed before any generalisations in direction of ascertaining the nature and functions of the State can be made. Without this analytical approach, ascribing important instruments such as coins to the State and to imply that they were indeed issued by the State can turn out to be a historical blunder. Internal evidence suggests the possibility of at least some of the series being issues that are not related to the State. This is the only way one can explain the presence of a number of series current in a single geographic region – a case that is best illustrated by the series of Archaic PMCs encountered in the area between Allahabad and Varanasi.

The Materialist approach and its utility:

On the basis of the foregoing discussion, a plea for a fresh reassessment of the classification of Archaic PMCs has to be made. The most rational and objective way to do this at the moment is the ‘Materialist’ approach. Kosambi laid the foundations of this approach to the study of ancient Indian history, and analysed various aspects from a dialectical standpoint. His research into aspects of numismatics was, however, guided by certain preconceived notions and therefore less objective among his contributions. Nevertheless, he stressed the importance of material evidence and helped to drive the attention of researchers from information that was primarily gathered from literary evidence. Adopting this methodology, the most objective and rational approach to classify the Archaic PMCs is to describe them on the basis of their find-spots with respect to the present day geographic locations. This approach not only emphasises the important regio-specific nature of the coinage, it presents a clearer picture of their distribution pattern. It helps effectively in the use of these coins as source of historical information and liberates them from the garbs of undue ‘Classicism’. The coins may can be described on the basis of known hoards – terminology such as ‘Narhan hoard type’ or ‘Sultanpur hoard type’ is much more rational than their ascription to either ‘Ashmaka’ or ‘Kuntala’ or whatever the case might be. They can be easily grouped further in an alphabetical manner depending upon the modern states or geopolitical regions (say Uttar Pradesh or Malwa) to which their respective find-spots belong. Such an exercise gives the researcher an idea about several important aspects regarding the coinage in a contemporary context. It also helps present the coins in their proper archaeological perspective and renders them accessible for interdisciplinary research. Each of the series can then be further studied applying the intrinsic approaches delineated before. This will help create a rational and historically viable picture for the Archaic Indian PMCs.

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Entry filed under: Archaeological findings, History of Koshal, Region watch, Subarnapur, Territory of South Koshal.

Sirpur was the capital of the “South Kosal” between the 4th and 6th centuries AD Kandha Culture of Kalahandi

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