The Other Coin: Sogdiana, History through Coins

We intend to show "History in Your Hands" with James Earl Jones in August and there
is no more important role that coins play than in those ancient countries that left little or
no written history and their history exist primarily in their coins and archaeological sites.
One such place where coins have recently come available with the end of the Soviet
Empire is Sogdiana.

Sogdiana was considered one of the four paradises created by Ahura Mazda of the
Zoroastrian religion by the Persians. Located in modern Uzbekistan around Samarkand it
was conquered by Alexander the Great and became part of the Hellenistic Kingdom of
Bactria until gaining independence around 150BC as seen from coins going from
Bactrian coins to copies. Very shortly thereafter, Scythian nomads and Yuezhi nomads
overran the country, divided into a number of petty princedoms. These are the coins nor
available. The petty kingdoms continued through the 10th century when the Muslim
Uighurs (in the news rioting in China) made Sogdiana part of their kingdom. Sogdiana's
wealth consisted not only of fine agricultural lands, but also being about in the middle of
the Silk Road. You can trace what lands came under Yuezhi with their square holed cash
coins, similar to Chinese coins, but with tamghas--crests around the hole, and the
Scythians with heads of princes and tamghas on the reverse. Only a few of the princes
names are known from script sometimes surrounding the tamghas on the Scythian
coins. In addition to portraits some coins have camels, lions, and Zoroastrian fire altars.
As more coins become available, more history of a lost empire will be revealed. A good
website is

Numismatically yours, David Elliott
Area of Sogdiana