An Ancient Imitation of Gold Coin from the Heraclius of the Byzantine Empire Excavated in China
The gold piece in the pictures is obviously an imitation of a Byzantine Empire gold coin cast in the reign of Heraclius (610-641 A.D.) The details of figures are coarse and many of the inscriptions are illegible. It is rather worn which indicates that this piece had been circulated for a considerable time.
Its weight 1.8 g is in the range between a Solidius and a Semissis; and the diameter is 2.2 cm. This piece is assumed to be a buried treasure which can be traced to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). Over the past century, many buried treasures have been unearthed in the northern China, including Xinjiang, Shaanxi, Honan and Manchuria, mainly from the tombs of the Tang Dynasty and some from earlier periods. Among these various excavations, silver coins (Dirhem) from the Persian Sassan Empire and gold coins from the Byzantine Empire are frequently found. Reportedly, up to now, there have been 40 pieces of Byzantine gold coins excavated, the earliest specimen is from Gratianus, 378-383 AD and the lastest is from Michael VII, 1071-1078, which covers 700 years, and more than a dozen of them are imitations. Except for poor craftsmanship, those imitations are also characterized by weight reduction, each of them are weighing less than an average Solidius, Semissis or Trimissis. Some of the lighter imitations are too thin to be regularly stamped, they only have one face. The most extreme example known only weighs 0.6 g.
It seems to be a custom of the Tang Dynasty for the dead nobility to be buried with Byzantine gold coins, which were either held in their hands or mouths. Many pieces have a hole or two as the shown one does, it also seems that Byzantine gold coins had been used as a kind of decoration or ornament in China.
According to researches, Arabian merchants in the mid Asia were the ones who transported Byzantine gold coins from the west to China, and due to a shortage of supply, these imitations were also made by the Arabs.
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