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The Moon-God on Coins of the Ḥaḍramaut

  • John Walker

In 1937 the present writer published some new South Arabian copper coins, brought back from the Wādī Maifa'at in the Ḥaḍramaut by Miss Freya Stark, on which the Ḥaḍramī moon-god, Sīn, figured for the first time. These pieces, of various sizes and weights, had all the same types and legends. Parts were obliterated or missing, but a composite drawing (fig. 1), based on a comparison of all specimens, shows on the obverse the beardless male head, wearing long ringlets of the moon-god, Sīn, whose name in the South Arabian script is on the right, with the letter (m) of uncertain significance, perhaps the initial of the mint, on the left behind the head. The reverse shows an eagle standing, to right, with open wings, the first occurrence of this representation of the moon-god on coins from this part of the world. To the left downwards is the name [reversed, as are all the legends on this first group, since these particular coins have all been cast from a series of moulds; the join in the mould, for example, is clearly visible on the right-hand side and at the bottom of the coin illustrated], i.e. ŠḲR, about which more will be stated later; to the right, downwards, , i.e. YŠH, a legend which has occasioned some speculation. Professor G. Ryckmans, in a private communication, drew my attention to the numerous examples of triple proper names amongst Sabæan rulers, e.g. Šahar Hilāl Yuhar'im, and suggested that the enigmatic letters on the coins might be the initials of one such. Unfortunately, as A. F. L. Beeston has recently pointed out, triple royal names are not attested at all in Ḥaḍramī. He suggested that the letters should be read upwards, HŠY, i.e. ‘minting (a verb with the causative prefix h) of Šmr Yhr'š’, the latter being the Sabæan king into whose realm the kingdom of the Ḥaḍramaut was assimilated towards the end of the 3rd century A.d. This would agree quite well with the date suggested in the above-mentioned Num. Chron. article (p. 279) from a study of prototypes as being ‘at the earliest the second century A.d.’.

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page 623 note 1 Numismatic Chronicle, pp. 260279, pl. xxxiii.

page 623 note 2 Le Muséon, lxiv, 1951, p. 130, f.n. 22.

page 624 note 1 The late DrNielsen, Ditlef, in his Der Dreieinige Gott in religionshistorischer Beleuchtung, ii, Gyldendal, 1942, p. 117, f.n., referred in passing to the coin presented by Mr.Duncan. With the exception of the Freya Stark coins all the others are die-struck.

page 625 note 1 See Rossini, K. Conti, Chrestomathia, p. 252.

page 626 note 1 It is interesting to note that this practice still survives in the Ḥaḍramaut at the present day, although its original significance has been forgotten. Stark, Freya (Seen in the Hadhramaut, London, 1938, p. 38) gives a photograph of a native house with ibex horns on the roof.

page 626 note 2 I have to thank Bay Aziz Oğan, Director of the Istanbul Museums, for kind permission to reproduce this.

page 626 note 3 The gist of the above article was first communicated in the course of a talk on the pre-Islamic coinage of South Arabia given to the University of Glasgow Oriental Society on 25th March, 1952.

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Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
  • ISSN: 0041-977X
  • EISSN: 1474-0699
  • URL: /core/journals/bulletin-of-the-school-of-oriental-and-african-studies
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