Following are comments posted to the South Asia Coins Group in April-May, 2004 relating to clay coin moulds with the designs of copper coins of the Yaudheya Dynasty ca. 3rd to early 4th Cent AD.
The Yaudheyas were a Post-Kushan dynasty ruling from the Ganges Valley to Punjab c. 190-340 AD. The series of coins represented in the moulds ("Class 6") was used 3rd to early 4th Cent AD according to Mitchiner's Ancient & Classical World. Coins are Kushan style AE Units with karttikeya (manlike figure) standing, holding sceptre, legend around, Rev: Diety standing with right arm raised, left akimbo. Clay moulds first came to light in the early 1980's at Sunet, Punjab, now a suburb of Ludhiana and were officially excavated 1983-84.
Scott Semans query to the Group:
I have recently examined a lot of 90 clay moulds for Yaudheya coinage, presumably coming from Sunet, Punjab where such moulds were discovered ca. 1982-83. Has anything been published on the moulds? Do these moulds continue to come out from this or other sites? The lot contained both obv and rev moulds, including all three reverse types shown in Mitchiner, and at least two of the obverse types, plus some strays which I can not identify. I see that Pieper does not mention any special significance attaching to "small vs large" diety reverses (as does Mitchiner) and wonder whether others familiar with the series see any significance in this? I have trouble sorting the moulds by this distinction and have no "small diety" specimens to examine. Finally there is the question of whether the coinage itself is cast, struck, or both, and thus whether these moulds are for legitimate coins or contemporary counterfeits.
more than 30.000 moulds of this coin-type, class 6, have been recovered from
Sunet and it looks as if more is constantly surfacing (to cite A.M.Shastri "even
a casual interested visitor can easily spot some if one only cares to"). You are
asking about any publication treating such moulds. Have a look at 'Contemporary
forgeries of Yaudheya coins' by A.M.Shastri in 'Numismatic Studies',vol.4,
pp.95-110. Shastri is of the opinion that all attributable Yaudheya coins appear
to be die-struck coins and that the clay coin-moulds have to be regarded as
ancient forger's tool to cast Yaudheya coins. Other numismatists however assume
that the Yaudheyas minted their coins by both techniques, die-striking and
casting, and hence they regard the moulds as genuine minting equipment of
official Yaudheya mints (in the same way also Rohtak, where many moulds of
Yaudheya class 2 coins have been found, is regarded as an important official
mint by some; Shastri thinks Rohtak also to have been an ancient center of
In any case we can definitely say that the coin varieties which were casted with
help of the moulds are copies of Yaudheya coins having actually circulated,
because the moulds were done by impressing current Yaudheya coins in wet clay.
So if you are studying the concerned coins today you are likely to find
die-struck among cast specimens and you have the choice to regard the cast ones
as fakes or to regard both, casts and die-struck specimens, as genuine.
Personally I have problems to imagine that an official mint produced one and the
same coin-type by two different minting techniques.
As for the "small vs.large" reverse deity:I have a great number of Yaudheya
coins of class 6 in my collection and find it impossible to use this as a
classification criterion: sometimes the feet of the deity are along the dotted
border, sometimes above, sometimes one foot is along the border whereas the
other foot is above and these minor varieties are not strictly associated with a
smaller or large version of the deity. Generally speaking there are many more
(minor) varieties of this series than assumed before. This applies for example
also to the legend varieties. The legend part 'dvi' or 'tri' can be found as an
additional legend part on certain specimens of the series and usually 'dvi'
specimens show a flower pot on reverse, 'tri' specimens a shell symbol.
Specimens showing the female deity on reverse without any additional symbols,
usually show the simple legend 'Yaudheya Ganasya Jaya' without 'dvi' or 'tri'.
But here also exceptions can be found: there are 'shell specimens' with the
simple legend and there even are 'shell specimens' with a 'dvi' instead of the
expected 'tri'. As for the cock at Karttikeya's feet: most specimens show its
tail hanging down, some specimens show the bird with its tail lifted. And there
certainly are other varieties resulting altogether in a far more complex picture
of the series than thought before.
I agree that the Yaudheya series presents a far complicated picture
than what is made to be. I find difficult to agree with Shastri's
inference that both Sunet and Rohtak had been ancient centres
of 'forgeries' - the sheer number of casts found at those two sites
would mean that their use was far too profuse to attribute any covert
activity. That a mint may produce coins using two techniques
simultaneously is improabable, however not impossible - especially if
the ateliers already employ casting as part of the manufacturing
process. Blanks were often produced by casting and if the meachanisms
were in place one would assume that the mint may produce the final
products by casting as well.
My doubt on the function of these clay moulds comes from a different
angle - I have seen many of these moulds and also a good number of
coins whose impressions they bear. One would assume that molten metal
had to enter these moulds in order to produce coins, givent hat most
of them are individual moulds. Not on one mould have I seen an
evidence of such an entry-point! One may brush this observation aside
due to the fact that the edges of these moulds are often broken and
jagged, but then the coins which the process ultimately led to should
have an evidence of a metal shaft on their edge (if they were cast at
all) - no class 6 Yaudheya coins show bear such evidence of casting
through individual moulds!! (Wilfried, could you please give some
visual substantiation of your observation that these coins are both
cast and die-struck? That could be really interesting.) Perhaps this
is what led Shahstri to assume they all were die-struck and the
moulds should have been forgers implements.
This lack of a shaft on the edge of the coins and the absence of
a 'runner' on the moulds makes me wonder whether the moulds were used
to produce coins at all...but if they weren't, what was their
purpose? Some contributors on the subject have speculated on
a 'terracotta currency', which I find terribly difficult to believe.
However, a non-monetary use such as in rituals can not be ruled out.
...sorry, Shailen, no visual substantiation available! Your criticism is well founded. All the class 6 coins in my collection are die-struck and I cannot remember ever to have seen a class 6 cast specimen- although they must be somewhere! I just assumed that with such a huge number of class 6 clay moulds there simply should have survived a significant number of class 6 cast coins (as I cannot think of another purpose for these moulds than casting coins). I felt supported in this view by Shastri citing R.Burn who had observed that 'of the Yaudheya coins in the British Museum about half seem to have been struck and the rest cast'- but it may be that this observation refers only to the class 2 specimens as Burn is commenting about the mould finds at Khokrakot near Rohtak.As for the extent of forging activities it's interesting to see that many ancient Punjab sites had a long tradition of forging coins of diverse dynasties. Shastri refers to excavations at Khokrakot which yielded coin moulds of Yaudheya class 2 coins, moulds for forging Gupta coins, Indo-Sasanian coins, Adivaraha coins and Hindu Shahi coins and also moulds for forging coins of as many as eight Indo-Greek kings and moulds for casting coins of Kanishka, Huvishka and Vaudeva..."showing thereby the flourishing business that Punjab-Haryana region provided to forgers of coins which would have not been possible if there were no great demand for these coins. It appears as if counterfeiting coins itself have turned into a highly profitable industry."
Further from Wilfried Pieper
As for your query concerning publications on the subject, Scott: another important contribution dealing with the Sunet moulds can be found in Coinage in Ancient India, p201ff,'Casting Techniques of Ancient Indian Coins' by Prakash and Singh. Shailen, you expressed the view that the Sunet clay moulds were not made for casting coins but might have had some other purpose. Referring to the moulds from Sunet the authors of the above mentioned book are describing these moulds as follows (p.222/23): "There is a channel for the inflow of molten metal across the margin, clearly seen in several of the more complete specimens...Unlike the complex multiple moulds of the Rohtak mint, the Sunet moulds are single-coin discs...The average diameter of the disc is ca.28mm, and of the coin socket 23mm. Round the coin socket there is a raised rim 2 to 3 mm wide, which, as already stated, has a rough fractured surface except for a smooth gutter-shaped channel leading across the rim into the socket. It was along this rim that the disc was coupled with another bearing the opposite design; the two appressed rims enclosed the coin socket, the two half-channels together forming a circular inlet for the metal. The fractured surface of the rims is due to the discs having been split asunder to take out the coin." I didn't notice this feature before but I have a Yaudheya class 6 mould in my collection which clearly shows the half-channel at the margin exactly as it is described by Prakash and Singh! I took a photo of it which can be viewed in my album (wilfried) at our group's photo section. I could well imagine that Scott has as well specimens among his group of clay moulds which show the same feature, thus further confirming that the purpose of these moulds had in fact been the casting of class 6 Yaudheya coins.
Followup post by Scott Semans:
I reexamined my specimens and found that while most of them had the edges broken away as one would expect from used moulds, a few do show intact, rounded (not rough) depressions in the edge of 4-5mm which must be channels for pouring metal in. However, none of the 30-odd specimens of the coinage I posess look to be cast. Has anyone actually seen cast specimens of this karttikeya / diety series? Do any of our South Asian members know whether these moulds come up for sale locally?
I must make it clear that I am a novice where ancient coins or other terra cotta items are concerned. The reason that I am able to tell about the above items is that I am currently residing at Ludhiana, the commercial and industrial center of northern India, and Sunet is now a part of Ludhiana, within its municipal limits. I donŐt know if you are aware of the fact that the village Sunet, the site of the buried civilization, happened to be a small village near Ludhiana. It is said that there was a time when the river Sutlej passed alongside this village. The river has changed its route over the years, and is now about three miles from the site.
Sunet is also called Uchcha Pind (High Village i.e. village situated on high ground) Sunet, because it is situated on the top of a mound. This mound has below it the hidden civilization of the Yaudheyas. In the past, during rainy seasons lots of things, mostly clay (terra cotta) items, used to surface up. When the people of the locality found that these fetched a price, they used to collect and sell them. But most were destroyed, more due to ignorance and negligence, than by intent. In the past, I have come across, mutually stuck, series of unopened, coin moulds of clay. These intact complete moulds had holes on the rim through which the molten metal was poured. I have also come across a small mould, which appears to be the mould of a gold coin. On account of the finishing of the figures on the moulds, these moulds appear to be genuine, and I would not term them contemporary forgeries. The sheer quantity of the moulds found is also an indicator of their authenticity.
The site remained neglected for a long time. By the time the archeological department woke up from slumber concrete houses had already cropped up on a major part of the village. A part of the village has been identified by the Archeological survey of India, earmarked for excavation. But the pilferage continues unabated since no security has been provided to guard the place. Local people, mainly children, enter the area unrestricted and use the place as public lavatory, and to collect any/all items that surface soon after the rains. Now, the frequency and quantity of the items surfacing has significantly diminished.
I guess over the years you must have had loads of these? I must havetraded at least 1000 pieces - and my recollection is that lots of them have casting flaws in the flans - not uncommonly actual voids in the surface, and on at least one occasion a coin fell in half due to bad casting. This only means for certain the flans were cast - it is possible that the design was struck on after casting. However these coins have high relief, indicating a hefty blow with the die - and when this happens casting flaws generally seem to become hairline "striking cracks", without voids etc. So that is my clearest test of the matter that they are cast.
Having said all this the last time I sorted a big group of these I found two that I thought were noticeably different (that is two out of 600 as I best recall) - and I thought these two were struck. My hypothysis would be that the coins were initially struck, in small quantities, before a change intechnology to casting, which accounts for the bulk of emissions.
One final point - on the moulds. I have never been to see the place where all these clay moulds come from but I recall meeting a well-respected student of Indian coinage in Delhi shortly after he had paid a visit. If I remember his thoughts correctly he felt there was maybe something a bit fishy about the clay moulds of coins from very diverse other series on display in a museum there. He had no doubt that theYaudheya series VI moulds were genuine and ancient, but if I remember and interpret him correctly, he thought the moulds for other series of coins were maybe a much more recent bit of initiative, maybe to add interest to the display?
I have one somewhere that sems to be double struck ie, was struck once then turned about five minutes of angle then restruck, unless the person who made the mould was drunk.
In light of Robert's observation I take back my statement that my specimens are struck. I think I could tell in a modern series, but I simply don't know about these. As to a double struck piece, could mould slippage during casting mimic this? Among the 90 examined were seven strays, three with what appears to be an enthroned figure, three with a standing figure (arms at sides?) on the right side of the flan (would be left on the coin), and one with a standing figure and bull (Siva & Nandi) facing right. They have the same general appearance as the regular Yaudheya type moulds except that the edges are fully intact, probably indicating that they were not actually used to cast coins.
Shailan Bhandare: Coming back to this after a while. Wilfried, I saw the picture you posted, it left me with more questions than answers. It does appear to be a channel but wouldn't you say that it's position is somewhat odd? I would expect the channel to be along the diameter of the mould, so as to allow molten metal to flow inside. Not perpendicular to the edge of the mould as one sees it in the photo! If one visualises two such discs joined together, with the channel running the way it is, how would the metal flow in the mould?? Moreover, even if the channel is in any position, parallel or perpendicular, it is bound to leave a residue on the edge of the coin. Can anyone illustrate a Yaudheya class 6 coin with such a residue? I read Robert's point about the striking the coins together but I am afraid it 'sounds' somewhat qualitative, excuse the pun! Also, I am not too convinced about the 'cracked edge' phenomenon. Is there any metallurgical way we can ascertain whether these coins were indeed cast? I think that will provide a final answer to this controversy.
David L. Tranbarger:
I have been following this interesting thread and would like to make a few comments.
At about the same time as the Yaudheya casts, Roman bronze coins were being extensively counterfeited,particularly in Egypt. The moulds used were almost identical to the mould in Wilfried's photo. Each mould is composed of two parts with the channel running perpindicular along the edge. These mould pairs were then stacked one on top of the other in the same way that one might stack or roll finished coins today. Three of these stacks were then assembled so that the channels all come together forming a shamrock-shape with one large central channel. Finally, the whole tree is placed in a containment vessel and the molten metal poured in from the top.
Some excellent illustrations of the method can be found in George Boon, "Counterfeit Coins in Roman Britain" in Coins and the Archaeologist (2nd ed.,John Casey and Richard Reese eds.), Seaby, 1988, figs.3-4, pp. 108-109. I have a scanner but have never learned to use it. Perhaps another member who has access to this book can scan the diagrams for the group.
As these moulds are used only once (they must be broken to retrieve the coins), the finding of even thousands may very well indicate an operation of short duration. I would suggest the likelihood that the cast coins are contemporary counterfeits of official versions which were struck. If so, the cast versions should be lighter in weight, as metal-saving represents the counterfeiter's profit margin.
Afraid I did not refer to 'cracks in the edge' of these coins (a phenomenon commonly seem when coins of a non-homogenious content corrode in the ground). I mentioned 'voids' (that in fact appear as flow lines across the face and edge of the coins indiscriminately) - a completely different phenominon. Does anyone have any firm evidence that ANY of these coins were struck? I have not heard any so far, and I suspect the vast majority (at least) were cast
Some of these coins have been described as having been overstruck on late Kushan coppers. I haven't any such specimen in my collection but I have one Yaudheya class 6 coin which has been overstruck on another specimen of the same type (obverse on reverse and reverse on obverse). Thus I KNOW that this specimen has been struck. As far as my other class 6 specimens are concerned: I already mentioned that I THINK they are struck coins (designs partly off center, clear surfaces, strong details, irregularly roundish flans). Of course I'm always trying to put the best and most attractive specimens into my own collection. And thus it could well be that cast specimens crossed my way but ,being less attractive and less desirable than die-struck pieces, had been rejected by me. In any case, Robert, I think you are right that those specimens with severe flan flaws and sometimes large surface voids are most probably cast coins (with the molten metal haven't poured completely into all areas of the moulds).Shailen's query for hints of any casting process on the edge of the concerned coins is of course well reasoned. Specimens with clear casting sprues would certainly provide the best argument. But if such cast specimens had really been produced by forgers(against the authentic die-struck specimens as I think), the forgers would have avoided to leave any easily recognizable residues of the casting process. Especially a casting sprue would have been carefully filed off, in which case only file or polishing marks could still be visible on the concerned part of the coin's edge.
Firstly - re Yaudheya BMC class 6 "double strikes". It is quite obvious that a double image can appear on a cast coin very easily - if a mother coin is pressed into the clay twice for instance. Whether this is likely to happen depends upon mint procedures - and since we do not know the mint procedures at Sunet - it is difficult to form an opinion on this. But a double image in itself certainly does not prove that a coin was struck.
Secondly - you write "As far as my other class 6 specimens are concerned: I already mentioned that I THINK they are struck coins (designs partly off centre, clear surfaces, strong details, irregularly roundish flans). Of course I'm always trying to put the best and most attractive specimens into my own collection. And thus it could well be that cast specimens crossed my way but ,being less attractive and less desirable than die-struck pieces, had been rejected by me." There is a widespread false preconception contained in this idea - that cast coins inevitably lack clear surfaces and strong details. Take a look at some of the cast issues of Wang Mang sometime - cast between about 9 and 23 AD. The surface finish and intricacy of detail on the vast majority of them far exceeds anything you will ever see on any Yaudheya copper. The idea that you can easily spot a cast coin by its crudeness of manufacture is very widely believed, but it is completely wrong.
Thirdly (for Shailen) - I bought 5,000 Tang Kai Yuans (cca 740 AD) recently (because they nice surfaces & great detail) Not a single stray sprue on any of them.
Hi Robert, Wilfried, and group, I have been looking at the edges of my specimens and they have flat areas all the way around, as if somebody very quickly rubbed the edges of the coins on a sharpstone, possibly to get rid of irregularities and sprues from the casting process.
As you had asked if there is any firm evidence that ANY specimen of the series had been struck I had mentioned my specimen which is not doublestruck but overstruck on another specimen of the same series- parts of the Brahmi legend clearly appear alongside the female figure.
But what I am saying is that a mother coin could have been impressed into the clay, turned over, turned part way round and impressesd again. This is a feature of ancient cast chinese cash (double obverse/double reverse mint freaks). It is not firm evidence of striking. Whether it would happen depends upon mint operations, which we have no information on.
If I may ask a question - is it possible that a mother-coin was struck, a mould was made, coins cast, cast coins were then restruck?
(Re. R. Tye's comments) I fully agree. If you still like you can have a look at the coin in my photo album at SACG's photo section. And now I promise: no more word on this topic.
A mother coin could have been made to make a mould which would then have been used to make wax castings, these would then have been encased in clay the clay heated so that the wax was melted and would run out through the vents which would then have had molten metal poured in to produce the coin. but I don't think this method was used in this case.