The Online Journal of The Islamic Coins Group
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Spring 2000AD / 1420AH Vol. 2.1
An Unrecorded Abbasid Fals of al-Shash, AH 149, in the name of al-Mahdi.
By: Jim FarrI am pleased to report the existence of a rare and previously unpublished Abbasid fals struck in al-Shash in AH 149.
The province of al-Shash (ancient Chach, modern Tashkent) in Uzbekistan occupies a prominent place along the trade route known as the Silk Road. The earliest known coinage from Chach consists of local copper coins from the late 3rd century AD (Frye, 1996). Pre-Islamic coinage reached its zenith in the 4th and 5th centuries, with coins featuring a local tamga and the mint name Chach written in Aramaic (Rtveladze, 1998). Later copper coins from Chach are anepigraphic, and by the early 7th century, coinage had become decentralized, issued by rulers of semi-independent dominions within the region of Chach (Rtveladze, 1982, in Zeimal', 1994). Silver coinage consisted of Bukarkhudat drachms, some of which were struck in Chach province (Davidovich, 1979).
The first raids by Moslem Arabs into Chach occured in AH 94-95/ 713-714 AD under the leadership of Qutaiba bin Muslim (Mayer, 1998). The earliest Islamic coins currently published from al-Shash are a silver dirham (perhaps unique) from Madinat al-Shash in AH 184, dirhams from Ma'dan al-Shash in AH 189, and a dirham from al-Shash in AH 195 (Mayer, 1998). It is unknown whether al-Shash, Madinat al-Shash and Ma'dan al-Shash are the same mint, but it seems reasonable that they are not. Zambaur (1968) listed dirhams struck in al-Shash in AH 163 and 166, but he himself doubted the existence of the example from AH 166, and Mayer (1998) reported that the AH 163 example is also spurious. Mayer concluded that the earliest Islamic coin struck in al-Shash was dated AH 184.
Local Abbasid copper coinage from al-Shash has heretofore been unreported. Neither Album (1998) nor Shamma (1998) report the existence of Abbasid fulus from al-Shash at any time. The fals described herein is the first report of any copper coinage from Abbasid al-Shash and advances the earliest date of any coinage struck in Islamic al-Shash by 35 years.
Since acquiring my example, I have learned from Dr. Vladimir Nastich in Moscow that at least four more examples of the type reside in a private collection in Russia. The following description was facilitated by information provided by Dr. Nastich, who has seen and studied the Russian specimens.
The coin is 19.5 mm in diamter and weighs 3.2 grams. The obverse field contains the first part of the Kalima, la ilah/illa allah/wahdahu. The marginal legend reads bismillah wilayat (without alif) al-mahdi sanat tis' wa arba'in [wa] mi'at. al-Mahdi was the son of the ruling Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur and the heir to the Caliphate. He is known to have served as governor in the east.
The central field of the reverse contains the second half of the Kalima, muhammad/rasul/allah. The marginal legend has not been completely read. It reads zarb bi'l- shash < :: > amr Sa'id bin Yahya. There are two words after "al-shash" that are as yet unknown. Sa'id bin Yahya seems not to be mentioned in any historical sources, so his identity and rank are unknown.
A beaded circle separates the central field from the marginal legends on both sides of the coin, and there is another beaded circle outside of both marginal legends.
Silver bukharkhudat drachms continued to circulate in Chach and Bukhara until the AH 190s/ 780s AD, corresponding approximately to the appearance of Ma'dan al-Shash dirhams of AH 189-190 (and dirhams of AH 193 from Bukhara, the earliest Abbasid silver from that mint). However, endemic copper coinage of the Chach/al-Shash region seems to have ceased in the early part of the 8th century AD. Perhaps the al-Shash 149 fals represents a response to a local demand for copper coinage. It would have been approximately 50 years since the minting of pre-Islamic copper coinage, so it is not unreasonable to suspect that the earlier endemic coinage was in short supply.
I thank Steve Album, Michael Bates and especially Vladimir Nastich for discussions and suggestions about the al-Shash 149 fals.
Album, Stephen. A Checklist of Islamic Coins, Second Edition. Santa Rosa, 1998.
Davidovich, E. A. Klady Drevnikh i Srednevokovykh Monet Tadzhikistana. Moscow, 1979.
Frye, Richard N. The Heritage of Central Asia: From Antiquitity to the Turkish Expansion. Princeton, New Jersey, 1998.
Mayer, Tobias. Sylloge Numorum Arabicorum Tuebingen. Nord- und Ostzentralasien, XV b Mittelasien II. Tuebingen, 1998.
Rtveladze, Edvard V. Pre-Muslim Coins of Chach. Silk Road Art and Archaeology 5, Kamakus, 1998, pp. 307-328.
Shamma, Samir. A Catalogue of 'Abbasid Copper Coins. London, 1998.
von Zambaur, Eduard. Die Muenzpraegungen des Islams. Wiesbaden, 1968.
Zeimal', E. V. The Circulation of Coins in Central Asia during the Early Medieval Period (Fifth- Eighth Centuries A.D.). Bulletin of the Asia Institute, New Series, Vol. 8, Bloomfield Hills, 1994, pp. 245-267.
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