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Silver Karshapana of the Mauryan Kings, India
(Third Century BCE)

This silver coin was issued during the third century BCE in ancient India by the Mauryan Empire, which was created after the death of Alexander the Great who conquered north-western India in 329-325 BCE.

Although strongly influenced by the round Greek coins that traveled the trade routes from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India between the sixth and the second century BCE, much of the money issued by Indian rulers at this time consisted of bars and small square plates of precious metal punched with a variety of symbols.

At least five separate punches were used to mark this coin. Animal, plant and sun symbols are prominent in the iconography chosen by the die engravers. The image of what appears to be a bull is recognizable in the upper right corner and another animal (maybe a horse) can be found on the center left. The two punches at the bottom appear to be plants and in the upper left corner is the image of the sun. The sun punch, common on the punch-marked coins of India, was the special emblem of the Mauryan Empire.

Because these coins adhered to a particular weight standard and their punch-marks, which may have been applied by government officials, merchants or bankers, suggested a regular system of production, they were commonly used in trade during this period.



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