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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Asian Coins ▸ Kushan EmpireView Options:  |  |  | 

Coins of the Kushan Empire, 30 - 375 A.D.

The Kushans descended from the Guishuang branch of the nomadic Yueh-Chi tribe. The Kushans first ruled in Bactria. They gradually expanded until, at the height of the Empire, the Kushans loosely ruled a territory that extended north to the Aral Sea through present-day Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, south into northern India, and east as far as Kashgar, Khotan and Yarkant, in the Tarim Basin of modern-day Xinjiang, China. A direct road from Gandhara to China remained under Kushan control for more than a century. The loose unity and comparative peace of such a vast expanse encouraged long-distance trade, brought Chinese silks to Rome, and created flourishing urban centers. The Kushan dynasty had diplomatic contacts with the Roman Empire, Sasanian Persia, the Aksumite Empire and Han Dynasty of China. While much philosophy, art, and science was created within its borders, the only textual record of the empire's history today comes from inscriptions and accounts in other languages, particularly Chinese. In the 3rd century, the Kushan empire fragmented into semi-independent kingdoms which fell to the Sasanians invading from the west. In the 4th century, the Guptas, an Indian dynasty also pressed from the east. The last of the Kushan and Kushano-Sasanian kingdoms were eventually overwhelmed by invaders from the north, known as the Kidarites, and then the Hepthalites.Map of the Kushan Empire


Kushan Empire, Kanishka I the Great, c. 127 - 150 A.D.

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The Kushan territories encompassed the Iranian-language speaking regions of Sogdiana, Ferghana, Bactria, Arachosia, Gandhara, and Taxila, and the conquered Indian territory of Mathura. These provinces lie in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and northwestern Pakistan.
WA87808. Bronze tetradrachm, ANS Kushan 553 - 560, Göbl Kushan 781, Mitchiner ACW 3095, aVF, brown tone, well centered, scattered porosity, scratches, weight 16.931 g, maximum diameter 27.6 mm, die axis 0o, Kapisha main mint, probably Begram mint, c. 128 - 150 A.D.; obverse Bactrian inscription: şAO KANHşKI (King Kanishka), king standing facing, long beard, nimbate, diademed, wearing a round brimmed cap, knee length tunic, trousers and boots, sword in sheath on belt, sacrificing over altar left from right hand, vertical spear in left hand; reverse god Oesho (resembles Shiva) standing facing, four-arms, nimbate head left, hair in a topknot; holding attributes: diadem, thunderbolt, trident and water pot; tamgha left, Bactrian legend OHşO on right; ex Tyche Numismatics; $100.00 (€85.00)
 


Kushan Empire, Kanishka I the Great, c. 127 - 150 A.D.

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Nana was a female Kushan divinity from Bactria, a variation of pan-Asiatic Nana, a conflation of Sumero-Babylonian Inanna-Ishtar with a local divinity. Nana is first attested by name on a coin of Sapadbizes, a 1st century B.C. king of Bactria who preceded the Kushans. In this case, Nana is depicted as a lion. Nana reappears two centuries later on coins and seals of the Kushan kings, in particular of Kanishka I. She was typically depicted as a seated martial goddess, escorted by a lion. She was also associated with fertility, wisdom and as a goddess of the waters (in particular of the Indus River). Depictions of Nana are known from Afghanistan as late as the 5th - 6th century. In Afghanistan and Pakistan the name appears as "Nawi," the Pashto word for bride.
WA87810. Bronze tetradrachm, ANS Kushan 440 ff., Göbl Kushan 776, Mitchiner ACW 3091, VF, dark brown tone, edge crack, weight 15.625 g, maximum diameter 26.9 mm, die axis 0o, Kapisha main mint, probably Begram mint, c. 128 - 150 A.D.; obverse Bactrian inscription: şAO KANHşKI (King Kanishka), king standing facing, nimbate, diademed, wearing a round brimmed cap, knee length tunic, trousers and boots, sword in sheath on belt, sacrificing over altar left from right hand, vertical spear in left hand; reverse goddess Nana standing half right, nimbate, wearing diadem with long ties, and sleeved ankle length robe, hair with bun in the back, scepter topped with lion protome in right hand, bowl in left hand, Bactrian inscription NANA upward behind, tamga right; ex Moneta (Missouri Numismatic Society Bourse, July 2015); $90.00 (€76.50)
 


Kushan Empire, Kanishka I the Great, c. 127 - 150 A.D.

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Oesho was a deity represented on the coins of several Kushan kings, one of the titular deities of the dynasty. Nearly all of the images of Oesho are on coins, suggesting his worship was a royal cult, not widely followed by the kings' subjects. Oesho was the only deity depicted on coins of Wima Kadphises, where he is portrayed with an erect lingam and is accompanied by a bull. Under Vasudeva I the iconography varied, with the god depicted with either two or four arms (holding a diadem, thunderbolt, trident and water pot), and one or three heads. The bull, water-pot, and trident became key attributes of Shiva in later Hindu art.
WA87812. Bronze tetradrachm, ANS Kushan 553, Göbl Kushan 781, Mitchiner ACW 3093, VF, excellent reverse detail, dark brown toning, earthen encrustations, obverse off center, edge crack, weight 16.644 g, maximum diameter 26.9 mm, die axis 0o, Kapisha main mint, probably Begram mint, c. 128 - 150 A.D.; obverse Bactrian inscription: şAO KANHşKI (King Kanishka), king standing facing, with a long beard, nimbate, diademed, wearing a round brimmed cap, knee length tunic, trousers and boots, sword in sheath on belt, sacrificing over altar left from right hand, vertical spear in left hand; reverse god Oesho (resembles Shiva) standing facing, four-arms, nimbate head left, hair in a topknot; wears bracelets, armlets and amulet string across chest; holding attributes: diadem, thunderbolt, trident and water pot; tamgha left, Bactrian legend OHşO on right; ex ECIN; $70.00 (€59.50)
 







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REFERENCES

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Jongeward, D. & J. Cribb. Kushan, Kushano-Sasanian, and Kidarite Coins: A Catalogue of Coins from the American Numismatic Society. (New York, 2015).
Carter, M. "A Consideration of some Iconographic Details of Buddha Images on Kushana Coins" in Essays McDowall.
Carter, M. "A Numismatic Reconstruction of Kushano-Sasanian History" in ANSMN 30 (1985).
Cribb, J. "Kanishka's Buddha image coins revisited" in Silk Road Art and Archaeology 6 (1999/2000).
Cribb, J. "Numismatic Evidence for Kushano-Sasanian Chronology" in Studia Iranica 19 (1990).
Cribb, J. "The 'Heraus' coins: their attribution to the Kushan king Kujula Kadphises, c. AD 30-80" in Essays Carson-Jenkins.
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Gardner, P. The Coins of the Greek and Scythic Kings of Bactria and India in the British Museum. (London, 1886).
Göbl. R. Donum Burns, Die Küsanmünzen im Münzkabinett Bern und die Chronologie. (Vienna, 1971).
Göbl, R. Münzprägung des Kusanreiches. Österreichischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften. (Vienna, 1984).
Herzfeld. E. Kushano-Sasanian Coins. Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India, No. 38. (Calcutta, 1930).
Jongeward, D. & J. Cribb. Kushan, Kushano-Sasanian, and Kidarite Coins: A Catalogue of Coins from the American Numismatic Society. (New York, 2015).
Loeschner, H. "Notes on the Yuezhi - Kushan Relationship and the Kushan Chronology" ONS Occasional Paper, 15 May 2008.
Mitchiner, M. Oriental Coins, Vol. 2: the Ancient and Classical World. (London, 1978).
Mukherjee. B. Kushana Silver Coinage. (Calcutta, 2004).
Rosenfield, J. The Dynastic Art of the Kushans. (Berkeley, 1967).
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Whitehead, R. Catalog of Coins in the Panjab Museum, Lahore, Vol. I: Indo-Greek Coins. (Oxford, 1914).

Catalog current as of Sunday, April 21, 2019.
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Kushan Coins