Copper and Silver Hoards

The copper coinage of the Kushans has been less studied and is less understood than its gold, but in many ways it is more important. Copper coins were produced in far larger numbers than gold. It was copper, and not gold which was actually used; in cities, by monks, traded across borders. And it is copper that is most frequently found on archaeological sites. The hoards here are presented in the chronological order of the latest coin, but with some alteration for particular types of hoard.

Numbers have been added for ease of reference. One hundred and three hoards were known at that time. Subsequent hoards have been given the number of the hoard they most closely resemble and a letter suffix.

Early Kushan Hoards

Prior to the reforms undertaken in the reigns of Wima Taktu and Wima Kadphises the early Kushan rulers had not one coinage but a series of regional coinages, often based on the weight standards or types of coins already circulating in the area. There are few hoards associated with these coins, mostly noted in connection with earlier rulers.

Gangetic Valley Hoards

The Kushan Empire extended to a line running from Mathura to Ahichchatra in the second century AD. With the exception of brief forays and campaigns beyond this point there was never any extended Kushan control deeper into India. To the east of the Kushan Empire dynasties ruled the region around Ayodhya and Kosam, about whom little is known beyond their coins (though the dates of the Maghas are known from inscriptions). Kushan coin hoards in this region are all of a very similar character, consisting of copper coins of Wima, Kanishka, and Huvishka. They were exported in trade after the reduction of the weight standard under Huvishka.

This group of hoards seem to represent mostly an economic episode late in the second century and were probably deposited still later. For that reason they are not presented in chronological order but instead from west to east. As well as hoards in central and eastern Uttar Pradesh, coins towards the end of this list also come from Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa. The apparent discrepancy in numbers (there are far more hoards in this than from any other area) probably reflects scholarly practice, rather than deposition. Many of these hoards have been discovered from local reports by Gupta, Singh, and Srivistava. If scholars familiar with local records in other areas were to make similar investigations they would probably turn up comparable numbers of 'new' hoards.

Puri-Kushan Hoards

Hoards of Puri-Kushan coins alone are known from Orissa but they are usually found in conjunction with Kushan coins. The limited data suggests these are Kushan coins exported from the Ganges region.

Wima to Vasudeva

The hoards presented below are mostly assumed to be found inside the Empire, though in the Northwest it is likely there is a similar filtering of coins across the borders of the Kushan Empire though perhaps on a lesser scale than in India.


After Vasudeva I reign ends there are two major sources of Kushan style copper coins. North of the Hindu Kush the Sasanians and then the Kushanshah issue an imitation using Kanishka II style obverses and the Wesho reverse of Vasudeva I. The Kushanshah, Shapur II, and then the Kidarites go on to issue their own copper as well. South of the Hindu Kush the Kushan state continues to issue an official coinage, the issues of particular kings being distinguished by the combinations of kaftan or armour obverse, Wesho or Ardochsho reverse, and various control marks.

Unfortunately these coins have been poorly understood, the first detailed typology is that by Khan in 2011. So many older publications leave the 'post-Vasudeva' or 'Vasudeva imitations' an undifferentiated mass.

Here we distinguish four basic classes of coinage. The first a nominal class of hoards concluding with Kanishka II (or with very few subsequent coins) - which chronologically fit between the end of Vasudeva's reign and the first issues of Kushanshah material. This first group may be a simple effect of the literature which is overly inclined to attribute a coin with Ardochsho reverse to Kanishka II. The second group is certainly real, and probably represents a cline operating between Central Asia and Northern India. The latest Kushan coins are those of Vasishka and Kanishka III or contemporary Kushanshah imitations of Kanishka II/Vasudeva (down to about 5g). These coins often include a few stray examples that betray a particular locality but the bulk are Vasudeva, Kanishka II, and the Kushanshah types. The relative proportion of those alters along the cline - favouring Kushan production in the South and Kushanshah production in the north. The third class are hoards with issues of the Kushano-Sassanian kings or Shapur II. The imitation types are later and the Kushan coins are usually associated with Vasudeva II if they are present. A fourth class of hoard includes coins which drop below 1.6g in weight which indicates the hoard post-dates the end of Kushan production and belongs in the period of Kidarites.

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©Robert Bracey.