as-Sikka السكة
The Online Journal of The Islamic Coins Group 
as-Sikka is a peer reviewed publication
ISSN 1496-4414 

Winter 2000AD / 1421AH       Vol. 2.3


Book Review

SYLLOGE OF ISLAMIC COINS IN THE ASHMOLEAN, VOLUME 10, ARABIA AND EAST AFRICA, by Stephen Album. Ashmolean Museum Oxford, 1999 (published 2000). Hard bound, 92 pages including 34 plates; ISBN 1 85444 125 6; Price GBP 35, USD 60.

Dr. Vladimir Suchy
Also Published in the ONS Newsletter

The book under review is the first of a proposed ten volumes, cataloguing the Islamic coins now at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. There is good reason why the last volume was published first and that is explained by the series editor Luke Treadwell in the foreword.

Catalogued in this book are not only coins in the permanent holdings of the Heberden Coin Room, but also those in Samir Shamma collection deposited in the Museum on long-term loan.

The book begins with an introduction to the coinages of The Arabian peninsula and East Africa from the beginning of Islam up to the introduction of machine-struck coins. The numismatic history of Yemen is reviewed first.   After quoting some standard works on this subject known to the author, there is an overview listing dates of the striking of particular denominations, discussion of their metrology, terminology, monetary systems and general history.

As a reviewer I have the following remarks and additions to the author's statements:

1. The first known published fals with the mint name of San`a was struck in 139 AH (Augst, 1962 in Numismaticky Sbornik, 7, pp. 61-70, Tab.II); the first silver coin of the year 172 AH at the State Hermitage, SPb. piece (GE No. 1272) with the name written as al-Ghitrif (not fully visible on Ashmolean specimen) and the first gold dinar attributed to Yemen (though without mint-name) is of 201 AH (Turath collection, Part I, Spink 133, # 37). With the mint name of San`a the first dinar is of 215 AH (Artuks, Part I, # 299, p.86, tab.V).

2. The first known series of dinars from Yemen bare the date 201 and the names of Muhammad and `Abdallah. Those of 202, 203, 204, all have the name of Muhammad only, and the last of 205 has the name of al-Ifriqi. The identity of Muhammad was a matter of some debate.  Those coins were published for the first time by Kubitschek and Muller in 1899 without specific attribution. Later both Darley-Doran 1988, and Nebehay 1989, ascribed the coins with the name of Muhammad, to Muhammad b. Ziyad, and recently the cataloguer of the Turath`s collection ascribed the coins of 201 and 204 to Muhammad b. `Ali b.`Isa b. Mahan. `Abdallah should be his son and deputy at San`a in 201. In other sources the ism of this governor is given as Hamdavayh (Bikhazi, 1970); Muhammad b. Mahan is also mentioned by G. R. Smith in his list of San`ani governors in 1983.
In SICA a silver coin, probably of 204, is listed with names Muhammad and al-Ifriqi (# 221), the author connected the ism and nisba of two persons to one Muhammad al-Ifriqi. The ism of al-Ifriqi is given as Ibrahim by both Bikhazi and Smith, so the mentioned coin was struck under their joint authority.

3. Post 249 dinars are known as al-mutawwaq and their weight standard was 2/3 mithqal and 2 habbah (i.e. 2,9573 g); post-303 gold coin are known as dinar as`adi. They weigh 2/3 qaflah (i.e. 1,9833 g) There is no specific reason ascribe as to why post-313 dinars of a distinctive type and calligraphy are known as dinar amiri. Actually almost all dinars struck without the name of a local ruler or `Abbasid governor were issued under the authority of Yu`firid amirs after the 30's of 3rd cent. AH, but they appear to be `Abbasid issues. Though there are no known coins with the names of Yu`firids, rulers of Ziyadid (?) and Tarfid (?) dynasties placed their own names on the coins in 346 AH and 350 AH respectively, the weight standard of their dinar was originally 2/3 mithqal (i.e. 2,8333 g) and was called after probably the most widespread coins `aththariyyah (used also in Makkah).

4. There is a brief discussion also of Ottoman coinage in Yemen, though no a single coin is represented in both collections. Ottoman authority, at least nominally, was acknowledged in some parts of Yemen as early as 922 AH since coins of that date are known from Zabid (Nadir Osmanli Madeni Paralari, Istanbul 1973, # 4 etc.) and probably from al-Hudaydah, too. There were also published gold coins (dhahab al-sultani or altun or altin) from the mint San`a of Murad III. (C. Olcer, TND Bulten No. 26, p. 18) and Muhammad (Mehmed) III. (Artuks, Part II, Istanbul 1974, # 1655, p. 566).

5. The weight of waqiyyah/uqiyyah in Yemen fluctuated over times, areas and purposes of usage in a similar way to other parts of the Islamic world. One w. weight of 33,2677g and two w. stamped by (imam Ahmad) an-Nasirlidin Allah and date (1)375 of 66,0284g are known.

After the chapter about Yemen there is an expose on the s.c.`Asir hoard, al-Yamama and al-Hijaz coins and a study on East Africa Islamic numismatics (Shanga, Pemba, Kilwa, Zanzibar, Mogadishu, Mombasa, Lamu and Harar).
The introductory essay is followed by a bibliography and an index of names, titles and dynasties which highly facilitate the usage of the catalogue.
The proper catalogue is in sylloge format with short description of 728 coins on 34 tables. The coins are grouped into 2 sections - Arabia and East Africa.

Arabian coins are listed chronologically within each mint arranged according to the Arabic alphabet, but the mint name is strangely given in English transcription only. East African coins are listed regionally in English alphabetical order. It is obvious that such an arrangement, though practical, has some disadvantages. Moreover the Arabian section should be divided regionally into Yemen and `Asir, `Uman and the rest of the peninsula (al-Hijaz and al-Yamama).
The catalogue contains remarkable, unique or previously unpublished pieces, but many common coins are omitted in both collections, so "not published in SICA" should not, in the future refer to rare coin.
Some published coins are well below the average state of preservation available on the market (e.g. Rasulid dirhams etc.). The coins from s.c. `Asir hoard were partially reattributed in comparison to previous listings and studied according to die links (well done!).
There are a few remarks regarding the catalogue:
# 289: the coin has the same rev. as # 290 (in private collection).
# 308: was published by Lachman in NI Bulletin, p. 156, fig. 1-2 and tentatively attributed to Ahmad b. Hashim, 1266-1267 AH. That of course does not mean that an attribution in SICA could not be the correct one.
# 309: it is not the type published by Lachman in 1990, p.7, # 17 - on that coin (from private coll.) the legend clearly reads al-imam al-Hadi on obv.; on coin # 309 it only reads al-Hadi. This is a different type, and maybe a denomination too, with at least 2 sub-types/variants - either with 4 dots or a circle in the center of the side with the mint name, most probably struck during different reigns or periods. The calligraphy of the coin with the circle is a bit better, so this could be struck in 1256-1259 AH and those with 4 dots in 1265-1266 or 1267-1269 or even 1272-1276 AH by `Ali b. `Abdallah or Ghalib b. Muhammad respectively.
# 552: the last word on obverse is probably bi-San`a, so coin could be attributed to this mint place.

The work is masterly written by esteemed specialist in Islamic numismatics is highly recommended to anybody interested in this subject. It certainly give an impetus to further studies of those series, which are still not fully understood and need more research of other public and private collections and cooperation of enthusiasts in this field. Finally, I would like to express my wish and hope that by the time this review is published, the author will be fully recovered from his injury and will continue his work on publishing further volumes of SICA as are planned.


Artuk, I. + Artuk, C.: Istanbul Arkeoloji Muzeleri Teshirdeki Islami Sikkeler Katalogu. Cilt I. Istanbul 1970.
Augst, B.: Inedita razeb umajjovskych a abbasovskych ze sbirky autorovy. (Tab. II). In: Numismaticky sbornik 7, Praha 1962; pp. 61-67 (Russian and French resumes, pp. 68-69; Quelques frappes inedites des Omeyyades et des `Abbassides de ma collection de monnaies).
Bikhazi, R.J.: Coins of al-Yaman 132-569 A.H. In: al-Abhath, vol. XXIII; Nos. 1-4; December, 1970.
Darley-Doran, R.E.: Examples of Islamic Coinage from Yemen. In: Yemen - 3000 Years of Art and Civilisation in Arabia Felix, ed. W. Daum; pp. 182-203. Innsbruck - Frankfurt/Main (published in conjuction with the exhibition at Munchen 1987-1988).
Kubitschek, J.W. + Muller, D.H.: Munzen. In: Sudarabische Alterthumer im Kunsthistorischen Hofmuseum, ed. D.H. Muller; pp. 65-79. Wien 1899.
Lachman, S.: The Coins of the Zaidi Imams of the Period 1224-1265 H/ 1809-1849. In: Spink Numismatic Circular, vol. 98; No. 1 (February 1990); pp. 1-7.
Lachman S.: The Coins of the Zaidi Imams of the Yemen in the 3rd Quarter of the 19th Century. In: Numismatics International Bulletin, vol. 25; No. 7 (July 1990); pp. 149-160.
Nebehay, S.: Muslimische Munzen aus dem Jemen. In: Jemen - Land der Konigin von Saba, ed. A. Janata, pp. 112-145 (Kat. Nr. N 32 - N 51, pp. 145-151). Wien (published for the exhibition 1989-1990).
Smith, G. Rex : List of Governors of the Yemen Resident in San`a`, pp. 53-54 of Chapter 7, The Early and Medieval History of San`a`, ca. 622-953/1515. In: San`a` an Arabian Islamic City, ed. R.B. Serjeant + R. Lewcock; pp. 49-67. London 1983.
Turath Collection Part I. In: Spink in Association with Christie`s Auction 133; Islamic Coins, London 25 May 1999.

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