Inscriptions on Coins
In legends of Ilkhanid coins, other than Arabic, there are also Mongolian lines written with two different scripts, Uighur and hP’agspa. Although both of these scripts are written vertically from top to bottom and from left to right, just for the sake of harmony with Arabic lines, in the following pages, Mongolian legends also have been placed horizontally, from right to left. I think, the engravers have thought the same way, because the original lines on the coins also are horizontal and from right to left, except Phags-pa. Uighur lines are just rotated forms of the original script, 90° clockwise. The coins already are round objects, so it does not matter too much.
Mongolian alphabet for Uyghur script have 23 basic letters (7 vowels and 16 consonants) plus some other letters to stand for foreign words. By order of Genghis Khan (Chinggis Khaan), this writing system for the Mongol tongue was instituted in 1204. Mongols adopted it from Uyghur Turks and Uyghurs from Sogdians. Uyghur Script, also known as Old Script, Mongol Script, Script Mongolian, or Classical Mongolian, is an alphabetic script written vertically from top to bottom with lines progressing from left to right (All other vertical writing systems are written from right to left.). In Uighur Script, the pen should write a continuous line, for the most part, from the beginning to the end of the word. A continuous baseline runs vertically with the majority of lines and loops sticking out to the left as the word progresses downward. This alphabet is reasonably accurate with respect to the representation of consonants, but fails to distinguish several vowels. It has survived numerous attempts at replacement and is still used in Mongolia, as well as Mongol inhabited territories controlled by China and Russia, today. Among Inner Mongolians in China, old Uighur script remains the actual writing system, while Mongolians from other regions primarily use Cyrillic letters but often learn this script as part of their cultural heritage.
Let's take these coins as examples:
|1. Ahmed Tekudar||2. Abaqa||3. Arghun|
Let’s look at the coins #1 and #2. These are the reverse sides. They bear four lines of Uyghur inscription. All lines are the same except the middle one. This line is spared for the ruler’s name. First one is of Ahmed Tekudar and second belongs to Abaqa. The bottom line can be either Uyghur sen "" or the khans name in arabic. On the third example the name Arghun can be seen in arabic on the bottom line. Mongolian scripts written with Uyghur script, line by line, from top to bottom, read:
As a whole:
It means "(this coin) has been struck in the name of Argun-un"
On some coins, the ruler’s name has been written with Arabic characters too, in addition to Uyghur. Look at the #3. Here, as the fifth line at the bottom, we read “ “ Argun in addition to "" “Argun-un” in the middle line.
In some gold coins we meet the word "" “arighu” which means “pure”. Sometimes on some coins of Taghay Timur and Sulayman Khan, we see the words "" “sultan adil”, which means “the just sultan”.
Mongols worship the heaven. The heaven is a God for Mongols. Thus, they assimilate both the heaven and God into one and pray to “God and Heaven of mine”. Especially in 18th century Mongols had a strong belief in powers of Heaven, as well as acted in conformity with powers of Heaven and according to decree of Heaven. As for Genghis Khan the Heaven was a God, he conquered countries and states and established his own state wit a power of Heaven. His decree starts with the words “by the eternal power of Heaven…”.
Image 1. Ghazan Mahmud, Baghdad, 700 AH.
It is an interesting fact of Mongolian history that the phrase “under the power of heaven” is inscribed in Persian and Mongol script on coins of some khans of Mongol Empire during 13th-14th century.The phrase “bi kuvvet-i huda” or “by the power of heaven”, inscribed on coins during the reign of Ghazan Khan (694-703 AH /1295-1304 AD) of Ilkhans, is paraphrased as a Mongol phrase.
When we look at the coin below (Ghazan Mahmud’s coins), we can see the "tengri" belief in inscriptions. Let’s put aside the legends at the edges left and right for now. At the third line we read his name with Arabic characters “Ghazan Mahmud”. The different aspect in this legend is at the first and second lines. They read “ tengriyin “ and “ kuchundur “, which means “by the power of God”. The forth line is “ Ghazanu “, Ghazan’s name in Mongolian.
Image 2. Description of a Ghazan Mahmud's coin.
If we take the arabic line out, it reads:
It means, “By the power (strength) of God (Heaven) (This coin) has been struck for Ghazan”.
Here you can find detailed analysis of scripts on several Ilkhan coins. They are selected from the most common types.
During the reign of Khubilay Khan (1260-1294) the old Uyghur-based script was used throughout the Mongolian empire for some sixty years since Genghis Khan time. The Uyghur script was not much suitable to represent the sounds of neither Mongolian nor the other languages spoken in the empire, like Chinese. Khubilay Khan hoped that a new script would overcome the problems associated with the old script. So, in 1269, Phags-pa script was created by the Tibetan Monk Phagspa Lama, at the Khubilay Khan’s order. In spite of all efforts of Khubilay Khan, the new alphabet could not receive wide acceptance. Mongolian and Chinese officials proved reluctant to learn and use the new script. Phags-pa script was used only to a limited extent during Yuan dynasty. Khubilay Khan’s dream of a single unified national script used throughout his empire by all peoples simply refused to come true. After the collapse of the Yuan dynasty in 1368, the Chinese abandoned the foreign script, whilst the Mongolians competely reverted to the earlier Uighurbased script. Phags-pa script is still used to a limited extent as a decorative script for writing Tibetan.Phags-pa script comprises 41 basic letters. A number of other Phags-pa letters are used for writing Tibetan or for transliterating Sanskrit. This syllabic alphabet is written in vertical columns, from top to bottom, laid out left to right across the writing surface.
Image 3. Phags-pa characters on coins of Ghazan Mahmud.
Now look at the picture above. Here in the red circle, you see where the Phags-pa characters have been placed. These characters are puzzling the coin collectors for years. We do not surely know what they are. Are they really Phags-pa characters as mostly accepted among numismatists, or the characters belonging to an other alphabet used by Mongolian people of that time (say Sanskrit), or just a “damga” or royal stamp which we don’t know the meaning of. “ According to Stenley Lane Pool, “although I. J. Schmidt implied these are Tibetian letters”, in fact these are not Tibetian letters, but shortened version of Ghazan Mahmud’s name in Mongol Phagspa script [S. Lane. Poole. “Coins of Mongols in the British Museum”, Classes XVIII-XXIII. London. 1881, page xlix, 289] Furthermore, it should be noted that on photographs of coins, the writings in Mongol script are placed to be in a horizontal position although the mongolian read vertically. In order to read Phagspa script on these coins, Arab letters should be in horizontal position. Thus Phags-pa letters will be located vertically. It is very difficult to read these three letters. R. Otgonbayar, a scientist studying ancient scripts, has tried diligently to read these three letters and, as a result of comparing the photographs of coins, he discovered that there are following letters (the third letter is considered as doubtful). “ This interpretation is very similar to Lane Pool’s that says the letters are acronym of the word M. Ghazan.
According to generally approved explanation, they are Phags-pa
characters, “Cha”, “Sa” and “Ka” and can be read as “Chasag-a”, which
means “in the reign”. Some writers read it as “Cha-kra-ra” to give the
meaning of “Shah Jihan”. This is the title of Khubilai Khan and also
used by his successors. Another different reading, by trying to find
resemblances to Sanskrit letters, is “Cha”, “Kra”, “Warti”, which means
“emperor”. Maybe none of these, instead it may stand just for Ghazan’s
name. As far as I know, these characters are seen only on Ghazan’s coins.
In the picture below you see different examples of this script:
The tamghas are originated from the clan structure and primitive society. Since the time when the ancients, including Mongol nations, have developed into relative groups, origins and ethnic groups, the symbol and belief of a clan have emerged, and the custom to distinguish their origins and relatives have been established. Consequently, when labor distributions within clans began to develop and people started manage an economy, various tamghas, drawings, notes and earmarks have been used as an identification sign for labor instruments and utilities as well as in domestication of animals.
Everytime the clan branched off due to internal clashes, the number of derivative tamghas, which branched off from common tamgha has increased, and thus tamghas been gradually developed into personal, family, lineage, khans and state tamghas.
The Möngke Khagan sent Hulagü Khan to western provinces of Iran, Syria, Merv (Egypt), Rum (Little Asia) and Armenia by ordering him to govern the suburbs of the State. According to this decree Hulagü Khan went for the war to the west in 1253-1254 and established the Ilkhanids, which covered the vast territories of Persia, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkistan and Georgia. During the reign for nine years Hulagü Khan issued coins immortalising his own and Möngke Khagan’s fame. The coins have inscription of “seree” tamgha, which dominate amongst Tului’s descendents.
How to Identify Khan Names on Coins
Since Ilkhans are descendents of Mongols, Mongolian with Uyghur and Phags-Pa script can be seen on most of the Ilkhan coins. It reflects loyalty to their ancestors. However, the dynasty is established in the Middle East where the Arabic is the daily language. The use of Arabic is a need to communicate with the society.
Arabic is written horizontally from right to left and both Uyghur and Phags-Pa scripts written vertically from top to bottom. Excluding the Mongolian sources, coins are displayed in a way that Mongolian scripts rotated by 90 degree clockwise (i.e. Mongol script placed horizontally from right to left).
Starting from Genghis Khan, Mongolian Empire used the Uyghur script which in fact is not suitable for the sound of neither Mongolian nor the other common language Chinese. To solve the problem, upon the order of Khubilai Khan, Phags-Pa script is developed by a Tibetian Monk Phags-Pa Lama. However, Phags-Pa script was not widely accepted and used only to a limited extent in the Yuan-Dynasty. Phags-Pa is still used to a limited extent as a decorative script for writing Tibetian.
You can see the ruler names in Uyghur and/or Arabic.
|Ruler Name||Period (AH / AD)||Name in Uyghur||Name in Arabic|
|Hulagu||654 - 663
(1256 - 1265)
|681 - 883
(1282 - 1284)
|663 - 680
(1265 - 1282)
(Argun-un / Argun-u)
|683 - 690
(1284 - 1291)
|690 - 694
(1291 - 1295)
|694 - 703
(1295 - 1304)
|703 - 716
(1304 - 1316)
|Abu Sa'id||716 - 736
(1316 - 1335)
(1335 - 1336)
|Musa Khan||736 - 737
(1336 - 1337)
|Muhammed||736 - 738
(1337 - 1338)
(1338 - 1339)
|737 - 754
(1336 - 1353)
|Suleyman||739 - 746
(1339 - 1346)
|745 - 757
(1344 - 1315)
|Ghazan II.||757 - 758
(1356 - 1357)
In the following table, you can find the standard weights of coins in grams.
|Period||Specifics||1/2 Dirham||1 Dirham||2 Dirham||6 Dirham|
|Ahmad Tekudar||Arabic Coins||1.25||2.50||5.00|
|Taghay Timur||after 741||1.08||2.16||6.48|
|Ghazan II||Iran and Qafqasya||1.08|
The design types drawn here are based on work of “Ilkhans” by Omer Diler and “Checklist of Islamic Coins, 3rd Ed.” by Stephen Album.
Obverses (images on the left) are the side of Kalima Tauheed.
(hexagon / square)
(circle / tetrafoil)
(hexafoil / heptafoil)
(square / heptafoil)
(pointed octafoil / pointed hexafoil)
(mihrab / rounded square)
(square / circle)
(Sultan name in Arabic)
(Sultan name in Uighur)
(circle / circle)
(square / heptafoil)
(pointed octafoil / pointed hexafoil)
(mihrab / rounded square)
(circle with pointed quatrefoil / plain hexafoil)
(type A but plain quatrefoil)
(looped hexagon / pointed hexafoil)
(hexagon, looped at corners / plain heptagon)
(as type A but pointed hexafoil in obverse)
(exactly Sati Beg type IA)
(plain circle / pointed hexafoil)
(plain or concave square / circle, notched at three points)
(as type A but the reverse is in a hexagon)
(Kufic / circle inscribed within a pointed hexafoil)
(fancy lobated square / pointed quatrefoil)
(plain lobated square / plain quatrefoil)
(fancy octafoil, ruler name in arabic / looped hexafoil)
(octafoil, ruler name in uighur/ looped hexafoil)
(plain circle / looped hexafoil)
(simple octafoil / double entwined trefoil)
(nner circle with Quran 3:25 on the margin / plain quatrefoil)
(plain circle / looped quatrefoil)
(plain circle / hexagram, mint on both sides)
(plain octafoil or dodecafoil circle interrupted with 4 annulets)
(lobated square / hexafoil with alternate arcs pointed)
(inner circle / plain square)
(plain circle / vertically elongated octafoil)
(Kufic / lobated square)
(plain octafoil / looped octagon)
(plain square / hexafoil)
(plain inner circle / hexafoil)
(16-foil / hexafoil inscribed within a circle)
(quatrefoil, pointed alternating / highlighted pointed hexafoil)
(octafoil / looped hexafoil)
(ornatequatrefoil / ornate pentafoil)
(looped hexagon / hexagon)
(dodekafoil / hexafoil)
(inner circle /looped ornamented hexagon)
(ornamented square / inner circle)
(octafoil / inner octafoil)
(plain circle / eye-shape)
(inner circle / quatrefoil)
(square / inner circle)
(mihrab /pointed hexafoil -divided clouds)
(octafoil / octafoil)
(Sati Beg's IA)
(Octafoil / Hexafoil)
(square / quatrefoil)
(octafoil / octafoil, similar to type C)
(plain circle / square)
(square / octafoil)
(mihrab / inner circle)
(inner circle / square)
(Taghay Timur's type RA)
(inner circle / square, similar to type IB)
(pointed pentafoil / quatrefoil)
(plain circle / quatrefoil)
(plain circle / pentegram, sultan name in Uighur)
(mihrab / pointed hexafoil,with margin divided into 6 clouds)
(kalima arranged in a triangle / plain circle with name in uighur)
(diamond / looped octafoil on four alternating corners)
(mihrab / plain circle)
(square / eyeshape)
(plain circle / looped hexafoil)
(kufic kalima / partially looped hexafoil -or fancy triangle-)
(circle inscribe within a quatrefoil / looped hexagon)
(ornamented rectangular lozenge / nonafoil)
(plain square / concave dodekagon)
(square / inner circle)
(circle looped top&bottom / trefoil)
(plain circle / pointed pentafoil)
(plain hexafoil / pointed pentafoil)
(plain circle / trefoil)
Ilkhan mints as they appear on coins and their locations.
|Mint Name||in Arabic||Observed Forms||Images|
|Abarquh + Ta'us|
|Akhlat + Jawaz|
|Aksaray / Aksara|
|Antaliya + Alaiya|
|Ankuriya / Ankiriya / Enguriye / Engur|
|Abu Ishak (Abu Ishaq)|
|Abu Ishak (Abu Ishaq) + Kazirun|
|Erbil (Irbil) al-Mamura|
|Erbil (Irbil) + Wazana|
|Erciş (Arjish) + Khilat|
|Erzurum / Arzarum /
|Arzan / Erzen|
|Astara / Astar|
|Ekridir / Ekri|
|Alinjaq - Alinja|
|Alinja + Tabriz|
|al-Bazar al-Urdu / Bazar Urdu|
|Avnik (Awnik) / Abnik|
|Bab / al-Bab|
|Bargiri / Pergiri|
|Baku / Bakuya|
|Bidlis / Bitlis|
|Darul Feth Birgi|
|Basra / al-Basra|
|Bekbazar/ Beypazar / Beypazari|
|Burlu / Borlu|
|Pul-i Aras + Nahçıvan (Nakhjavan)|
|Tun + Jajerm|
|Tire / Tira|
|Jazira / al-Jazira|
|Jawaz + Akhlat|
/ Hisn Kayfa
|Hilla / al-Hilla|
|Horto / Hortu|
|Khadar / Khalar|
|Khartabirt / Khirbirt|
|Kharput / Kharbut / Harput|
|Khazina / Khazana|
|Khurti / Khurtu|
|Dahistan / Daghistan|
|Develu (Dewelu) Karahisar (Qarahisar)|
|Divrighi / Divrigi / Diwriki|
|Sari / Sariyya|
|Samsun + Siwas|
|Samsun + Gumushpazar|
|Sawah + Kashan|
|Siird / Sighird / Isghird|
|Shasiman / Shasifan|
|Shayk Kabir Shiraz|
|Sandikli / Sanduklu|
|Qa'in / Qayin|
|Qara Aghach I.|
|Qara Aghach II.|
|Qastamuniya + Makyus|
|Qolhisari / Golhisari / Golhisar|
|Qonya (Konya, Quniya)|
|Ka'in / Qayin|
|Kushtaspi / Kushtasbi|
|Kankari / Kankar (Cankiri)|
|Kuhgilu / Kuhgiluya|
|Garni / Qarni|
|Golbazar / Gulbazar|
|Maden + Gumushbazar|
|Lulua / Lulue|
|Lilan / Laylan|
|Manadhir / Manadir|
|Mawsil / al-Mawsil|
|Nidir / Nadir|
|Nikhtar / Niksar|
|Nakide / Nighde / Nigde|
|Wazana + Irbil|
|Walashkird / Walashjird|
|Wilawar / Wilamar|
|Hattakh / al-Hattakh|
Approximate locations of Ilkhan mints.
How to read year and months on coins
The zero point of ilkhani calendar is Rajab 01, 701 AH (according to another reference Rajab 13, 701 AH). This date is in the reign of Ghazan Mahmud. But, however it is, we see ilkhani dates only on some Abu Said coins as 33 and 34 ilkhani. The year ilkhani 33 corresponds to 734/735 and 34 to 735/736 AH. In contrast to the modern coins, Ilkhans do not use numerals to write dates, but formulate it by words. That is why the study of islamic coins, particularly Ilkhan coins, are harder for nonarabic speakers. The date, along with the mint is generally located on the margins.
Dates can be formulated as "ones digit + and + tens digit + and + hundreds digit". So if the date is 682, the date is written as "two and eighty and six hundred" which corresponds to "ithnayn wa thamaanya wa sitta mia". Here are more examples.
|Date||Ones Digit||linker||Tens Digit||linker||Hundreds Digit|
There are coins with month names or letters as shortened versions of months.
|In Arabic||Month Name||In Arabic||Month Name|
|Jumada al-ula||Dhu al-Qa'adah|
|Jumada al-akhira||Dhu al-hijjah|