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#TeamTorreira @sidin
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Okay time for thread. Friends let us start a brief thread. Look a this beautiful coin. It is gold. it is pierced. So numsimatists will say: Aha! Found in India!
That is because ancient India had a peculiar record of taking gold coins, piercing them, and then using them as jewellery. Often they even made imitations of foreign gold coins and repurposed them into pendants.
For instance, this is a very rare imitation of a Roman coin of Justinian I, maybe, made in India and worn as jewellery. A most peculiar habit, especially because the imitations were also made of gold. So not like they were trying to save money. It was the fashion trend.
But back to our coin. This is a coin found in India, manufactured by the Aksumite Empire of Ethiopia. If you've never heard of Aksum, boy are you in for a surprise. Fascinating in every way.
Lasting for a 1000 years Aksum is perhaps the third empire in the world to adopt Christianity after Armenia and Rome. There is dispute about how quickly this adoption happened. But that it happened is without a doubt.
Aksum had two golden ages of sorts, approximately 200 years apart. The first around 280 AD and the next around 550 AD. In its heyday Aksum was a tremendously wealthy civilization, minting coins, building monuments and dabbling in forceful foreign policy.
The image here is from a 14th-century Persian manuscript. It shows the king of Aksum receiving a delegation from Mecca, demanding that he return some early fugitive followers of Muhammed...
This was back when Muhammad was still just a thorn in the side of Meccan authorities. The king refused. And this is a pivotal moment in early Islam. Often called the First Hijra. So Aksum... how did they make money?
The briefest way to put this is by saying that they intermediated trade between India and Rome. They enabled shipping points, currency exchange, markets and so on. And because of their double access to the Nile and the Red Sea they profited like anything.
What did they do with all this money? Lived good lifestyles, but also built a singular architectural object: the Stelae. Kindly peruse this photo of the North Stelae Field in Axum. Those thin needles of stone, all made from single blocks, and carved all over are marvels.
Note carefully the gigantic stelae lying broken on the ground. It is believed that this Great Stelae fell as it was being erected... 1700 years ago. The pieces remain there to this day. These wonders were so... wondrous that Mussolini took one home in 1937 after his invasion.
That great Obelisk of Axum sat in Rome for years, before it was brought back to Ethiopia, piece by piece, and erected again, reinforced with Kevlar, and unveiled in 2008. The saga of its return is well worth reading about.
Indeed Aksum itself is really quite a fascinating story. When one thinks of great powers and fabulous kingdoms in late antiquity, there is a tendency to only think of Rome or China or India and assume things were boring everywhere else. Not. At. All. Aksum was awesome.
And the most amazing thing? Most of Aksum remains un-excavated. For all we know there are many more wonders hiding under the Ethiopian landscape. So back to that coin then...
Coins from Aksum are just some of the many globe-trotting coins often found in South India. By virtue of historic trade links. Indeed an important source of Aksumite coinage is something called the Mangalore Hoard. Details of its finding are super sketchy...
And the coins were first written by someone anonymous who used the pseudonym Hanuman and Lakshmi Nawartmal. Who are the Nawartmals? A private collector of coins who wishes to remain anonymous? #shrug
Regardless of this lack of closure, I hope you enjoyed this little story of Aksum. Wikipedia is very good place to start. Also this British Museum pdf: britishmuseum.org/pdf/KingdomOfA… Enjoy your discovery!
P.S. Images in thread all belong to other people and available on the internet. Happy to share links/sources if needed.
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