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An Important New Work on Bactrian Numismatics


Kritt, Brian, New Discoveries in Bactrian Numismatics [Classical Numismatic Studies No. 8]. Lancaster, PA, and London, 2015. with dust jacket. 162 pp., consisting of 14 pages of prefatory material, and 148 pages of text and illustrations. 37 plates, including three color plates, and numerous in-text illustrations and coin photographs. (GR354)

In his last book, Dynastic Transitions in the Coinage of Bactria, Brian Kritt built on the Diodotid coinage model established by Frank Holt, and extended this analysis to produce the first detailed and comprehensive system for the attribution of the coinages of Euthydemus, the succeeding Greek king of Bactria. In the process, he has continued his studies of the eastern bronzes of the Seleucids and their successors in Bactria, developing further his interpretations of the role and significance of the recently discovered Seleucid colony of Aï Khanoum, in the far northeastern corner of what is today Afghanistan.

Since that publication, a fabulous new hoard of Bactrian gold staters of the Diodotids and Euthydemus was discovered in the Ganges river valley of India, which has added a substantial amount of new information from coins which had previously been extremely rare, or unknown. Found in the village of Vaisali in Bihar, this treasure has famously dominated many of the auctions of Greek coins sold in the last dozen years or so, while failing to receive any detailed or systematic study of its contents or their implications. That is the challenge Dr. Kritt has undertaken in this current volume.

The internal structure and composition of the hoard, when numismatically analyzed, has produced numerous unexpected discoveries, and revealed interesting details concerning the virtually unknown history of this distant eastern kingdom in the later years of the third century BC. Some monetary practices and innovations that are encoded in the internal dynamics of the hoard have also come to light. In addition, some of the elements discovered have required modifications and new interpretations of previous models of the coinages of the Bactrian dynasties.

Some individual new bronze coins have also been discovered since Dynastic Transitions was published and are discussed here. One truly remarkable Aï Khanoum bronze has the only representation of a river-god ever found on the coinage of the Seleucid Empire, the god of the Oxus river, while some new Parthian bronzes have shed light on more details of the eastern campaign of conquest undertaken by Antiochus III near the end of the third century BC, as well as providing a chronological fixed point in the early Parthian coinages.

Evaluations of some new competing theories of the Diodotid coinages has led to some novel interpretations and understanding of some of the perplexing Bactrian “Pedigree” coins.

An examination of inscribed seals written in the ancient language forms of the remote Indus valley culture has led to surprising connections to the control marks and symbols employed on the coins and dedications at Aï Khanoum. This unexpected discovery has required exotic and controversial conclusions involving an apparent influence from a remarkably distant era.

Published by CNG. Dealer inquiries invited.

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