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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Asian Coins| ▸ |Kushan Empire||View 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


Kindarite Huns, Peroz, c. 345 - 350 A.D.

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The Kindarite coins betray little of their Hun origins as the designs were copied from coins issued by the Kushan and Kushano-Sasanian kings, whom they succeeded. In Bactria, the coins of were struck in the name of the last Kushano-Sasanian king, Varahran Kushanshah, whom they may have retained as a puppet ruler, but the real power is identified by a Kindarite tamga.
SH48317. Gold stater, ANS Kushan 2420, Mitchiner ACW 3592, Göbl Kushan 608, aEF, weight 7.796 g, maximum diameter 21.8 mm, die axis 0o, Gandhara mint, c. 345 - 350 A.D.; obverse Kushan style king standing facing, head left, nimbate, diademed, wearing pointed cap, sacrificing at altar from right hand, staff in left hand, trident above left; Brahmi inscriptions: Kapana next to altar, Peroyasa under left arm, Gadahara right; reverse goddess Ardochsho (Lakshmi) enthroned facing, nimbate, crescent on top of head, diadem with ladder-like ribbons in right hand, cornucopia in left hand, tamga upper left, Brahmi monogram sha right; SOLD


Kushan Empire, Shaka, c. 305 - 335 A.D.

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The list of Kushan rulers and their dates of reign is constantly under review. This coin has a Brahmi inscription "Shaka" in the right field, in the same place where Vasudeva II's coins read "Vasu." It is natural to suppose that perhaps Shaka was the name of the king who issued the coin. There is a mention of one "Devaputra Shahi Shahanshahi Shaka Murunda" in Samudragupta's famous Allahabad inscription, as one of the rulers who paid him homage. In this context, Shaka could be a title, it could refer to a tribe, or it could be a personal name. Robert Göbl did not think Shaka was the name of a ruler; rather, he thought the coins were tribal issues, but Michael Mitchiner and the authors of ANS Kushan think Shaka was a king.
SH09060. Gold dinara, Mitchiner ACW 3570, Göbl Kushan 591, ANS Kushan 1670 var. (Brahmi inscriptions), aEF, weight 7.740 g, maximum diameter 18.8 mm, die axis 0o, uncertain mint, c. 305 - 335 A.D.; obverse Shaka standing facing, head left wearing nimbus, diadem and conical hat, sacrificing over altar from right hand, filleted staff in left hand, filleted trident to left, Brahmi inscriptions: nothing beside altar, bhri under left arm, Shaka right; reverse goddess Ardoxsho enthroned facing, nimbate, diadem in right hand with ladder like ribbon, cradling cornucopia in left arm, tamgha upper left, blundered Bactrian inscription (mostly off flan as usual); SOLD


Kushan Empire, Huvishka, c. 152 - 192 A.D., Unofficial Imitative

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Prior to Huvishka's reign, much of the Kushan Empire had been ruled by subordinate rulers, ksatraps. The ksatraps, which had maintained significant autonomy, vanished from records during his reign. Huvishka patronized both Buddhist and Brahmin institutions.
WA65865. Bronze tetradrachm, Mitchiner ACW 3289-3290, Göbl Kushan 863 - 865, VF, weight 6.789 g, maximum diameter 25.7 mm, die axis 45o, Unofficial mint, c. 152 - 192 A.D.; obverse Huvishka on elephant right, scepter in right, goad in left, blundered Kharosthi legend; reverse Pharro (God who bestows royal glory) standing facing, nimbate, head left, diadem in right hand, spear vertical in left, tamgha in left field, blundered Greek inscription; SOLD


Kushan Empire, Huvishka, c. 151 – 190 A.D.

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Huvishka was the son of Kanishka. Huvishka was the emperor of the Kushan Empire from the death of Kanishka (assumed on the best evidence available to be in 140 CE) until the succession of Vasudeva I about forty years later. His rule was a period of retrenchment and consolidation for the Empire. His reign is known as the golden age of Kushan rule.
WA87817. Bronze tetradrachm, ANS Kushan 848, Göbl Kushan 849, Mitchiner ACW 3221, aF/VF, brown tone, bumps and scratches, corrosion, weight 14.113 g, maximum diameter 25.0 mm, die axis 0o, Kapisha main mint, probably Begram mint, c. 151 - 190 A.D.; obverse Bactrian inscription: şAONANOşAO OOHşKE KOşANO (King of Kings Huvishka Kushan), king mounted on elephant walking right, wearing tall round headdress, diadem with long ribbons, tunic over trousers, long transverse scepter in right hand, elephant goad in 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 lower left, Bactrian legend OHşO downward on right; ex Moneta (Missouri Numismatic Society Bourse, 2015); rare; SOLD


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

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According to the Rabatak inscription, Kanishka I the Great was the son of Vima Kadphises, the grandson of Sadashkana, and the great-grandson of Kujula Kadphises. Kanishka ruled a huge territory, nearly all of northern India, south to Ujjain and Kundina and east beyond Pataliputra. His territory was administered from two capitals: Purushapura (now Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan) and Mathura, in northern India. The Kushans also had a summer capital in Bagram (then known as Kapisa), where the "Begram Treasure," comprising works of art from Greece to China, was found. He is also credited (along with Raja Dab) for building the massive fort, Qila Mubarak, in the modern city of Bathinda in Indian Punjab. Kanishka's conquests and patronage of Buddhism played an important role in the development of the Silk Road, and in the transmission of Mahayana Buddhism from Gandhara across the Karakoram range to China. Kanishka's reign began a calendar era used by the Kushans for about a century, until the decline of the realm.
WA87811. Bronze tetradrachm, ANS Kushan 520, Mitchiner ACW 3079, Göbl Kushan 774, VF, well centered, dark brown tone, some porosity, weight 17.143 g, maximum diameter 27.0 mm, die axis 0o, Kapisha main mint, probably Begram mint, c. 127 - 150 A.D.; obverse Bactrian inscription: şAO KANHşKI (King Kanishka), king standing facing, with a long beard, nimbate, diademed, wearing a pointed 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 lunar god Mao standing half left, head left, wearing diadem with two long ties, crescent emerging from shoulders forming halo, wearing long cloak over shoulders clasped at chest over ankle length tunic, raising right hand in blessing, left hand resting on hilt of sword in sheath on belt, tamgha left, Bactrian legend right MAO downward on right; SOLD


Kushano-Sasanian, Ardashir I Kushanshah, c. 230 - 250 A.D.

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Soon after he overthrew the Parthians, c. 230 A.D., the Sasanian king Ardashir I invaded Bactria. He and his son Shapur I, seized the Kushans' western provinces in Bactria and Gandhara and put them under the rule of Sasanian nobles called Kushanshahs. About 325, Shapur II took direct control of the south. In the north, Kushanshah governors ruled for about another 85 years, until Bactria was overrun by the Hephthalites.
WA40138. Bronze drachm, ANS Kushan 2145 - 2146, Mitchiner ACW 1264; Göbl Kushan 1028, aEF, some strike weakness, weight 2.810 g, maximum diameter 19.1 mm, die axis 135o, obverse Pahlavi legend: Mazda-worshipping Ardashir, great Kushan king, crowned bust right, wears a crenelated crown, flattened hair bun above, two diadem ends and three rows of curls behind, dotted beard, control mark in right field; reverse Pahlavi legend: Lady Anahita, goddess Anahita seated facing within a domed and pillared sanctuary, wearing crown and diadem with ribbons left and right, knees apart, diadem with ladder-like ribbons in right hand, scepter in left hand; SOLD


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; SOLD


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

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Kanishka's conquests and patronage of Buddhism played an important role in the development of the Silk Road, and in the transmission of Mahayana Buddhism from Gandhara across the Karakoram range to China.
WA87809. Bronze tetradrachm, Mitchiner ACW 3114 (same rear leg var.), ANS Kushan 579 ff., Göbl Kushan 783, Donum Burns 167 ff., F/VF, some marks, some porosity, reverse slightly off center, weight 16.966 g, maximum diameter 25.6 mm, die axis 0o, Kapisha main mint, probably Begram mint, middle phase, c. 128 - 150 A.D.; obverse Bactrian inscription: şAO KANHşKI (King Kanishka), crowned, diademed king standing facing, holding spear and sacrificing at altar at left; reverse wind god Oado running left (variety with rear leg nearly straight), wind blown spiked hair, holding up with both hands a sheer large cape billowing out around body, tamgha left, Bactrian OA∆O downward on right; SOLD


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); SOLD


Kushan Kingdom, Kujula Kadphises, c. 50 - 90 A.D.

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Uniting the Yuezhi confederation, Kujula Kadphises became the first Kushan emperor. He took Bactria from the Scythians and the Indo-Parthians, and then moved the tribes into Gandhara (N.E. Afghanistan and N. Pakistan). Controlling the Silk Road between China and India, in the east, and the Mediterranean world, in the west, the Kushans became a world power second only to China and Rome.

ANS Kushan notes this type circulated primarily in the Vakhsh valley, Tajikistan.
WA59159. Silver obol, Senior B2.3, ANS Kushan 38 - 43, Mitchiner ACW 2840 - 2843 (Heraios), Göbl Kushan -, aVF, weight 0.588 g, maximum diameter 11.9 mm, die axis 0o, c. 50 - 90 A.D.; obverse diademed and draped bust of king right, with beard and moustache; reverse King standing facing, head right, wearing nomadic dress, armed with sword raising right hand; Greek legend: HIAOY KOPPANOY (of Kushan yabgu) in two flanking downward lines, squared letter forms, blundered; scarce; SOLD




  




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REFERENCES|

Alram, M. Iranisches Personennamenbuch: Nomina Propria Iranica In Nummis. Österreichischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften. (Vienna, 1986).
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.
Cribb, J. & R. Bracey. Kushan Coins Catalogue. (London, 2011).
Friedberg, A. & U. Gold Coins of the World, From Ancient Times to the Present. (Clifton, NJ, 2009).
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).
Senior, R. Indo-Scythian Coins and History. (London, 2001; supplement: London, 2006).
Whitehead, R. Catalog of Coins in the Panjab Museum, Lahore, Vol. I: Indo-Greek Coins. (Oxford, 1914).

Catalog current as of Friday, December 13, 2019.
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Kushan Coins