by Ursula Kampmann
translated by Annika Backe
March 19, 2015 – It is the material that is the basis of any numismatics. It is only possible to produce scientifically validated knowledge if there is sufficient material that can be accessed. That was why, in the previous years, the Sylloge volumes on Greek numismatics have been an important achievement, providing researchers with easily accessible material.
Larissa Baratova, Nikolaus Schindel, Edvard Rtveladze, Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum Usbekistan. Sasanidische Münzen und ihre Imitationen aus Bukhara, Termes und Chaganian. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna, 2012. 199 p., comprising 47 plates, 21.5 x 30.3 cm, images in black and white, hardcover. ISBN: 978-3-7001-6945-1. 69 euros.
The view of numismatics has broadened over the course of the last decades. Of particular high interest to researchers are the fringe areas on which only little research has been done. Thus, it is time for new Sylloge volumes. The Numismatic Commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences published the first volume of the Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum (SNS) in 2003. After the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the State Museums of Berlin and the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, this volume focuses on material which researchers find difficult to access. It comes from Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan, the country located between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan with the cities of Samarkand und Tashkent, is more reminiscent of Arabian Nights than of numismatics. However, on the threshold of ancient and medieval times, this country issued a coinage with a range much bigger than that of the Old World, which was stricken with the migration of the peoples back then.
The Sasanids had their silver drachmae produced in neighboring Merv. They became the model for the local coinage of tribes and clans in Central Asia. Sogdiana and the Hephtalites in Tocharistan are particularly important in this respect. These coins are a major source for reconstructing the history of Central Asia. They have not – or not sufficiently – been published so far. The latest Sylloge volume, written in collaboration with the Institute for Archaeology of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, makes this material accessible at last.
The 647 coins, displayed on 47 plates, are preceded by a detailed commentary. It begins with the history of research done on this subject so far and an overview of the collections that have been accessed for this study. That is followed-up by a thorough discussion of the material. This discussion is very important. After all, contrary to Greek or Roman coins, no reliable order of the material has yet been established, and likewise not every attribution is beyond any doubt. Published in this volume is the current state of research which is further progressing. The authors want the series and interpretations put forward to be understood as a preliminary result and a contribution to the ongoing academic discussion.
As such, this volume is quite useful. It conveys information on a numismatic area to which most catalog authors concede victory. It provides insights into one of the most exciting stages of the history of mankind which we have only recently begun to reconstruct – with numismatics playing a decisive role. The contributors, Michael Alram and Rika Gyselen, deserve a lot of credit for dealing so thoroughly with this subject that is often dismissed as a fringe area.
An order for the Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum volume on Uzbekistan, as for any other SNS volume, can be placed at the homepage of the Austrian Academy of Science Press.