Explore highlights
Silver 'Samantadeva' drachm of the Shahi dynasty

 

Diameter: 18.000 mm
Weight: 3.290 g

Gift of E.T. Heron Allen

CM 1938-8-2-11

Coins and Medals

    Silver 'Samantadeva' drachm of the Shahi dynasty

    Shahi dynasty, about AD 850-950
    Ohind (modern Hund), north-west Pakistan

    A 'bull and horseman' coin

    The Hindu Shahi kingdom, at its greatest extent, stretched from Kabul in Afghanistan to north-west Pakistan. The contemporary Arab historian al-Biruni, who attempted to chronicle its history, complained that the Shahis did not bother to record the sequence of events or the dates of their kings. The dynasty is known principally from its silver coins, called 'bull and horseman' coins, from the design of a seated bull on the obverse (front) and a horse and rider on the reverse. The coins themselves carry only titles in Brahmi, not the names of rulers. This example is inscribed with title Samantadeva (feudal lord). The weight and high silver content of the coins remained consistent over a long period, which made them acceptable as currency far beyond the Shahi kingdom. Some have even been found as far north-west as Moscow and the Baltic Sea, where they were evidently brought by the Vikings or other raiders and traders.

    Apart from slight modifications in the design and silver content, only the titles alter. The earliest, of over 70% pure silver, seem to have circulated mainly in Afghanistan. Successive Muslim attacks from the west forced the Shahis to relocate their capital further east at Ohind. Coins bearing the title Samantadeva predominate in this region. They are usually of baser silver, slightly smaller in size, with the designs in outline. For these reasons it is thought that they are probably later issues.

    R. Tye and M. Tye, Jitals: a catalogue and accoun (South Uist, 1995)

    J. Cribb, B. Cook and I. Carradice, The coin atlas (London and Sydney, Macdonald Illustrated, 1990)

    Highlights

    Browse or search over 4,000 highlights from the Museum collection

    Shop Online

    British Museum collections, £12.99

    British Museum collections, £12.99