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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Cabinet W
SICILY, Uncertain Punic military mint. Circa 320-310 BC

Triton XV, Lot: 1019. Estimate $200000.
Sold for $200000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SICILY, Uncertain Punic military mint. Circa 320-310 BC. AR Tetradrachm (26mm, 16.80 g, 10h). Uncertain female head to left (Dido or more probably Tanit), wearing a necklace and a Phrygian cap that is encircled with a band embroidered with palmettes and tied above her forehead / š’mmḥnt (= people of the camp), Lion walking to left, head facing front; behind, date palm. Hunt 96 (this coin); Jenkins 271 (O84/R225); Rizzo, pl. LXVI, 7 = GPCG pl. 26, 41 = ACGC 876 = Kraay & Hirmer 207 (same dies). Extremely rare. A magnificent, fresh example, probably the most beautiful of all Carthaginian silver coins. Some very minor corrosion, otherwise, virtually as struck.

Ex ‘Exceptional Private Collection’ (Leu 76, 27 October 1999), lot 68; Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection (Part II, Sotheby’s, 21 June 1990), lot 96.

This superb piece must have been designed and engraved by a Greek artist, who produced a goddess who embodied a Greek vision of a Carthaginian/Pheonician heroine. In the past this head was identified as that of Dido, the legendary queen of Carthage but it seems more like to be the city’s patron goddess Tanit as viewed by a Greek artist. She seems to be shown with hair in curls that mark her as being ‘foreign’, not at all like female heads are shown on other Siculo-Punic issues. Her headdress is also very unusual, as is the palmette-ornamented ribbon that encircles it. It is more than likely that this splendid Tanit head was thought to be simply too exotic for general use and, thus, was replaced by the more standard, and more familiar, Tanit heads based on Euainetos’ conception of Arethusa.