MAURYA 320-270 BC punchmarked karshapana


MAURYA, time of Chandragupta and Bindusara, circa 320-270 BC, punchmarked karshapana, Obverse: five marks, Reverse: one mark, rectangular, silver, 13x14mm, 3.31g, series Va, GH506, obverse is free of verdegris, which has been mostly left on the reverse, VF

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It is useful to remember that all ancient coins have been cleaned.

Mauryan karshapanas used a system of applying 5 punches on one side of the coin, and 1 or 2 marks on the other side. There are also banker test marks. The catalog we use here is Ancient Silver Punchmarked Coins of the Magadha-Maurya Karshapana Series, by P.L. Gupta and T. R. Hardaker.

Bureaucratic governing systems emerged when people who didn’t know each other personally were interacting in ways other than war. Coins were developed to keep track of the mutual satisfaction factor in trades. In northern India bureaucratic governments emerged before the 6th century BC. They were family based. Families of a certain size we like to term “tribal.” In northen India the earliest “tribal” states are called “janapada.”

In the mid-4th century BC the Magadha janapada began conquering its neighbors. In 320 BC it consolidated its dominance and established what we call the Mauryan Empire. The first Mauryan Emperor, Chandragupta, convinced Alexander to not try any funny business in India. The story goes that Alexander wanted to give it a try but his soldiers threatened mutiny. Chandragupta abdicated and became a monk. His son, Ashoka, introduced concepts of mercy into government. Normal dynastic succession squabbles and “rich person’s diseases” decreased the vitality of the government. Eventually a takeover of the system by the Sunga family occurred.

The earliest ancient Indian coins were the “bent bar” punchmarked silvers of the Achaemenid Persians occupying Gandhara in northwest Pakistan. By the 3rd century BC coins were in general use in most of India and Ceylon, and in subsequent centuries struck round coins in gold, silver, and copper came into use throughout the subcontinent and beyond to Southeast Asia and Pacific islands to Java and beyond.