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Mauryan coin

Copper alloy cast coin. (whole) Three-branched tree in railing (left), three-arched hill and crescent (top right), inverted sun and moon/'taurine' and standard (bottom right). (reverse)
Standard (top left), cross-shaped tank (top right); swastika (bottom left), elephant walking to left (bottom right). (obverse)

Object
British Museum

Mauryan coin, second century BCE, © The Trustees of the British Museum, no. IOC.1056, https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3351064&partId=1&matcult=9405&page=1

Coins were a fairly new technology at the time of the Maurya Empire. Indians began using coins, rather than barter (exchanging goods directly), at about the same time as the Greeks and the Chinese did. Coins made trade easier. Since the territory of the Maurya Empire stretched over most of the subcontinent and up into Central Asia, the Maurya rulers held control over parts of one of the most important trade routes in the world: the Silk Road. This coin was found in the modern country of Afghanistan, but it could have been found anywhere along the major trade routes. The coins contain certain symbols that reflect the Mauryan Empire. Can you identify what some of those symbols/images are? Indian products were traded in Persia, the Mediterranean region, Arabia, along the coast of East Africa, China, and parts of Southeast Asia. The most popular products were pepper, cotton cloth, and precious stones.

This coin was found in modern-day Afghanistan. Encourage students to consider how the vast trade networks of Asia made it possible for the coin to have gotten there by perhaps showing a map of where the Maurya Empire was and where modern-day Afghanistan is. Also point out to them that we do not know if the Maurya got the idea for coins from the Greeks and/or Chinese, if Indians invented coins on their own, or if perhaps the Indian invention inspired the Greeks. The British Museum identifies the following as images and symbols inscribed on the coin: Standard (top left), cross-shaped tank (top right); swastika (bottom left), elephant walking to left (bottom right); on the reverse, three-branched tree in railing (left), three-arched hill and crescent (top right), inverted sun and moon/”taurine” and standard (bottom right). In contrast to the previous inquiry sets, which have featured a lot of trade goods, this set makes use of more varied sources about a wider range of exchanges — of political and religious ideas, ambassadors, technologies, and knowledge. Point out to students that there was a lot of trade going on, even though no other sources from this set focus on trade.