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Roman Coins from the Masson and Mackenzie Collections in the British Museum


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The British East India Company’s Museum in Leadenhall Street housed an eclectic range of objects that were predominantly collected by those associated with the Company. Charles Masson and Colin Mackenzie were two such individuals. Their collections were acquired by the EIC, and after the closure of the museum in 1878 the majority of the collections were dispersed to various institutions, including the British Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the Indian Museum in Calcutta. While some coins were transferred to museums, most were sold at auction. In 1995, approximately 10,500 coins were discovered in the British Library's India Office Collections. Some 7000 of these came from Masson’s collection, and in December 2011 the majority of the remaining c. 4000 coins were traced to the Mackenzie collection.
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South Asian Studies
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Roman Coins from the Masson and Mackenzie
Collections in the British Museum
Sushma Jansari
To cite this article: Sushma Jansari (2013) Roman Coins from the Masson and
Mackenzie Collections in the British Museum, South Asian Studies, 29:2, 177-193, DOI:
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Roman Coins from the Masson and Mackenzie Collections in
the British Museum
Sushma Jansari*
British Museum
The British East India Companys Museum in Leadenhall Street housed an eclectic range of objects that were
predominantly collected by those associated with the Company. Charles Masson and Colin Mackenzie were two
such individuals. Their collections were acquired by the EIC, and after the closure of the museum in 1878 the majority
of the collections were dispersed to various institutions, including the British Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum, and
the Indian Museum in Calcutta. While some coins were transferred to museums, most were sold at auction. In 1995,
approximately 10,500 coins were discovered in the British Library's India Oce Collections. Some 7000 of these
came from Massons collection, and in December 2011 the majority of the remaining c. 4000 coins were traced to the
Mackenzie collection.
Among the India Oce coins were 117 Roman and Nabatean bronze coins. This article examines them in more
detail, also considering by whom, where, and when they were acquired, thus shedding considerable light on Masson
and Mackenzies travels and collecting practices. Furthermore, it highlights the many thousands of late Roman bronze
coins, from the fth to seventh century AD, that were discovered in South India. It also brings out the urgent necessity
of conducting a more detailed study to understand this period of Indo-Roman trading relations and the role of the late
Roman bronze coins in South India.
Keywords: East India Company; Charles Masson; Colin Mackenzie; India Oce Collection; India Oce Loan
Collection; India Museum; Indo-Roman trade; Late Roman Bronze coins; Nummus Economy
As today, the greatest progress is made when collectors,
excavators, and scholars work together, or are even
embodied in the same individuals, sharing their evi-
dence and their ideas.
Joe Cribb, 2007
1. Introduction
The 117 Roman coins in the India Oce Loan
Collection (IOLC) presented here were transferred on
permanent loan from the British Librarys India Oce
Collections to the British Museum in 1995 and have
been studied as part of the Masson Project. A closer
examination of these coins suggests that they fall into
three distinct groups based on their likely nd spots:
Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean, Western Europe,
and South India and/or Sri Lanka. It was initially
thought possible that Masson acquired all 117 coins.
This study reveals, however, that the majority of the
coins came from South India and/or Sri Lanka, and
were in fact acquired by Colin Mackenzie.
Furthermore, the Roman coins from Western Europe
were unlikely to have been acquired either by Masson
or Mackenzie. The details and results of this investiga-
tion are presented below.
Charles Masson (18001853), whose real name was
James Lewis,
amassed a huge number and variety of
coins and other artefacts over the course of his unusual
career and extensive travels through northern India,
Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq.
Masson travelled through
the Middle East in the early 1830s and visited Cairo on
his return to England in 1842. While he is known to have
acquired some Roman coins from Egypt, and perhaps
also during his travels in the Middle East, the poor state
of his nances during his nal years in London make it
unlikely that he purchased more coins, however cheaply,
to add to his collection. There is, of course, always the
possibility that they were given to him by an individual
aware of his numismatic interests. At no time did Masson
visit South India or Sri Lanka.
The British East India Company (EIC) acquired
Massons coins in two phases. As the sponsor of his
exploration of ancient sites in Afghanistan between
1833 and 1838, the EIC was the recipient of most of
his nds.
These were sent to the Companys India
Museum in Leadenhall Street, London. Masson was
allowed to keep the coins from Begram acquired in
South Asian Studies, 2013
Vol. 29, No. 2, 177193,
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183738, but on his return to England in 1842 he
oered them to the India Museum so that they could
extract any new specimens. In actuality, they kept the
best ones. On Massons return to London in March 1842
he worked on his own archaeological records and the
considerable remaining collection that he personally
held until his death in 1853.
His wife, Mary Anne
Kilby, died in 1855, and the EIC paid £100 to the
guardian of their two children for Massons remaining
papers and coins.
These were then also transferred to
the India Museum.
Colonel Colin Mackenzie (17541821) left his home
on Stornoway, Outer Hebrides, in 1783 and made his way
to India where he joined the EIC army, eventually becom-
ing the rst Surveyor General of India in 1816.
From the
time of his arrival in India, Mackenzie began to collect
diverse materia antiqua with the aim of writing a history
of India.
His military campaigning and surveying, as well
as his periods of leave, took him to many far-ung places
in India, Sri Lanka, and Java.
He spent the majority of his
time in South India, particularly in and around Madras
(where he was based for much of his career) as well as on
the Deccan. He visited numerous sites in northern India,
including Delhi and Calcutta, as well as more ancient sites
along the river Ganges.
Mackenzie also travelled to Sri
Lanka in 1795 as Commanding Engineer during the tak-
ing of this island. The Napoleonic Wars took him to Java
between 1811 and 1813 as part of the British occupying
His travels provided the perfect opportunity to
indulge his interest in history through the exploration
and recording of historical places and the acquisition of
both historical and contemporary manuscripts and arte-
facts, including coins. Indeed, Mackenzies collection was
among the largest and most wide-ranging to be put
together bya private individual in India during this period.
It comprised, for example, a variety of artefacts such as
the Amaravati sculptures, part of which are now in the
British Museum, and rare manuscripts and coins from
almost every region that he visited. In addition to his
extraordinary collection, Mackenzie also left more than
1500 personal manuscripts and papers, which H. H.
Wilson, the Mint Master at Calcutta and Secretary to the
Asiatic Society of Bengal, volunteered to examine and
report upon. Wilson subsequently prepared and published
a two-volume catalogue of Mackenzies collections.
Mackenzie died in 1821, and in 1822 his widow,
Petronella Jacomina Bartels Mackenzie, sold his collec-
tions to the EIC for the then princely sum of Rs 100,000.
A document dated 1 January 1823 states that this sale
included Mackenzies manuscripts, drawings, mineral
samples, and, of particular relevance here, coins.
After the India Museum was closed to the public in
1878, Mackenzies artefacts were distributed to a range
of institutions including the British Museum, British
Library, Bodleian Library, the Royal Asiatic Society,
the Indian Museum in Calcutta (now Kolkata), and
also the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library in
Chennai (formerly Madras).
Between 1878 and 1882
most of the Masson collection, which had also been
held in the India Museum, and a small proportion of
other India Museum coins, approximately 2000 in total
(which may have included some of the Mackenzie
coins), were transferred to the British Museum.
Some of the remaining coins, mostly duplicates, were
donated to two institutions: the Royal Asiatic Society
and the Fitzwilliam Museum.
A vast number of the
coins remained in the India Oce Collection (IOC),
and many of these were auctioned oby the
Government of India in 1887. The unsold residue,
oered to the Fitzwilliam Museum and memorably
referred to as mere rubbishby F. W. Thomas in a letter
to the then Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum,
returned to the India Oce. The India Oce itself was
closed at the time of Indian Independence in 1947, and
in 1985 the India Oce Library was incorporated into
the British Library. The residual coins remained there
until 1995, when the collection was transferred on per-
manent loan to the British Museum. Elizabeth Errington
then began the process of identifying and analysing the
material. A second batch of coins was transferred in
2005. Of the c. 10,000 coins transferred, c. 7000 are
identiable Masson coins; most of the remaining coins
are now thought to come from Colin Mackenzies col-
lection. The identication of the 117 Roman and
Nabatean coins, which are thought to be from
Massons and Mackenzies collections, and the results
of a more detailed analysis of them based on this iden-
tication, are presented here.
2. Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean
Towards the end of 1841 or in early 1842 Masson sailed
from Bombay to Suez and then crossed Egypt overland
before travelling to London via France.
He reached
London in March 1842. Although details about his jour-
ney home from India are limited (MassonsNarrative
does not cover his return journey from India), unpub-
lished manuscripts held at the British Library reveal that
Masson procured260 coins in Egypt/Cairo.
lists these coins in varying amounts of detail, making it
possible to identify four, perhaps ve, of the coins in his
catalogue with IOLC coins.
Twenty-eight IOLC coins can be reasonably
assumed to have been acquired in Egypt. They comprise
one, possibly two, Nabatean coins (IOLC 4710, 4720);
nine coins minted in Asia Minor and the eastern
Mediterranean (IOLC 471113, 471618, 472122,
4725); and seventeen coins minted in Alexandria
(IOLC 473841, 474355). As a result of Nabateas
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geographical proximity to Egypt and the ancient trading
links that long existed between these regions, it is not
unusual to nd Nabatean coins in Egypt. Masson might
easily, therefore, have acquired them from Egyptian
dealers. Masson did not, however, list any Nabatean
coins among those that he acquired in Egypt. Either
he did not acquire any, or he was not aware that some
of the coins that he had procured were in fact Nabatean.
It is notable that IOLC 4710 is in poor condition and
IOLC 4720 is very poorly preserved. It may have been
to these coins, and one other, that Masson was referring
when he wrote that three of the coins that he acquired in
Egypt had some unknown name.
Two Probus tetradrachms of Alexandria t Massons
descriptions: IOLC 4745 (eagle reverse) and IOLC
4746 (gure reverse); as do two Aurelian pieces:
IOLC 4743 and IOLC 4744. The fth coin is a little
more problematic. Masson lists one coin as
The IOLC collection contains one coin of
Severus Alexander (IOLC 4725) and the inscription
ALEXANDROCon the obverse reveals the emperors
identity. In addition to the coins that Masson listed by
emperor, he also included three coins with some
unknown name, forty as Roman, and thirty-eight as
It is rather curious that Masson divided
seventy-eight of the coins under the headings Roman
and Byzantinewithout providing any further details as
to the authorities under whom these were minted. It is
possible that the coins were too worn for their inscrip-
tions to be read; Masson may have felt able to divide
them by approximate historical periods. How he himself
dierentiated between the Roman Empire and the
Byzantine period is a little more dicult to determine.
Traditionally, the two dates used to indicate the transition
from the Roman Empire to the Byzantine period are
Constantines transfer of the capital from Nicomedia to
Constantinople in AD 324 and the East-West division of
the Roman Empire after Theodosius Is death in AD
However, numismatists tend to use the date of
Anastasiuscoinage reform in AD 498 instead. The latest
IOLC coin thought to have been acquired in Egypt was,
however, an Alexandrian tetradrachm minted under
Maximian in AD 289/90, making it at least thirty years
too early to be comfortably described as Byzantine. The
inscriptions on the remaining IOLC coins acquired in
Egypt are discernible when closely inspected. This might
suggest that those coins which Masson described as
Byzantine have not survived in the IOLC collection.
3. Western Europe
Nineteen IOLC coins t the prole of Roman coins
found in Western Europe. Where visible, the mints
represented are Lyon, Rome, Mediolanum, Gaul, Trier,
and London. The coins range in date from Vespasian in
AD 71 to Constantine the Great in AD 31617.
It was initially thought that Masson may have
acquired these coins after his return to London, but I
nd it unlikely that he purchased any. Massonsnan-
cial resources were always limited, if not severely
strained, and this situation did not change during the
nal eleven years (between 1842 and 1853) that he
spent in London. Masson received a small pension of
£100 per annum with which he had to support not only
himself and his wife, but also latterly their two children,
Charles Lewis Robert (born in 1850) and Isabella
Adelaide (born in 1853).
A small notebook, hand-
sewn from scraps of paper, in which Masson recorded
his expenses, testies to his nancial constraints and
makes it immediately apparent that the purchase of
coins at any price would have been a luxury beyond
his means. The list of avoidableexpenditure included,
for example, gin, eels, and a babys cloak. Masson also
made a comparison between expenses should have
beenand were.
Given his proclivity for recording
in detail his nds and purchases of coins and other
antiquities, it is likely that Masson would have men-
tioned any coins acquired in London, somewhere in his
numerous lists of coins.
An alternative explanation has to be found, there-
fore, to explain their presence among the India Oce
materials transferred from the British Library to the
British Museum on permanent loan in 1995. It is prob-
able that these coins were either donated to the India
Museum in London by unknown persons, or that they
were purchased locally to add to the museums collec-
tion. Unfortunately the India Museum kept very few
records about its vast and wide-ranging collections.
This makes it very dicult to determine with any pre-
cision whether its collections did indeed include any
Western Roman copper coins. Two sources that list
some of the coins that were originally part of the
India Museum are of limited help. One is the Sotheby,
Wilkinson, and Hodge auction catalogue that listed, in
varying amounts of detail, the coins they auctioned o
from the India Museum on behalf of the Government of
India in 1887. The other is the British Museum IOC
(India Oce Collection) accession register, which lists
those coins that were acquired from the India Museum
in 1882.
The Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge catalogue of
August 1887 includes a number of predominantly gold
and silver coins. These include ve Indian imitations of
Roman aurei with the bust of Julia Domna on the
obverse and those of Caracalla and Geta on the reverse.
Five coins are included immediately below this group
and described as Others, similar. No specically
Roman copper coins are listed. There are, however,
what appear to have been a considerable number of
South Asian Studies 179
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copper coins that were sold either by weight or in large
lots. Lot 874, for example, is described as Copper.A
large lot of Bactrian, Indo Scythic &c., Coins. Lots
875879 are described as A similar lot.No indication
as to the quantity or weight of any of these lots is given,
making it impossible for us to determine, even approxi-
mately, how many coins made up each lot and frustrat-
ing any attempt to identify them. The poor condition of
the IOLC Roman coins from Western Europe could
have led to them being mixed up and sold with the
other copper coins at auction.
The accession register for the IOC coins donated to
the British Museum in 1882 includes 75 Roman gold
and silver coins; none are copper. Of these coins, three
date from the Roman Republican period; 71 coins are
Roman Imperial coins ranging in date from Augustus to
Leo I. In terms of the place of production of the Roman
coins, one was minted in Trier, three in Constantinople,
twenty-one in Lugdunum, forty-ve in Rome, and two
coins are unidentiable. It is not unlikely that all the
IOC Roman coins minted in Western Europe were
originally part of one collection that was broken up
when the India Museum was closed, so that the more
valuable coins could be sold more easily.
4. South India and Sri Lanka
Seventy IOLC coins t the prole of other late Roman
bronze (LRB) coins found in South India and Sri Lanka
that have been published by R. Krishnamurthy and R.
Walburg respectively.
As noted above, Masson did not
visit South India or Sri Lanka, while Colin Mackenzie
stands out as the most likely person to have acquired
these coins. This suggestion is borne out by the compo-
sition of this group of coins, which closely reects
Mackenzies life and travels. The vast majority of these
coins are Indian, predominantly from South India,
including some coins minted by Tipu Sultan (ruling
between 1782 and 1799), while North Indian issues,
such as those from Delhi, Gwalior, and Awadh are
also represented. They also include Javanese coins
and, of course, the Roman bronze coins. It is notable
that none postdate Mackenzies death in 1821. The pre-
sence of six trays of Javanese coins in such a collection
is particularly signicant, as these can be rmly asso-
ciated with Mackenzie, who spent some years on Java
during the Napoleonic Wars. Wilson listed 6218 coins
that had been in Mackenzies collection, including over
200 silver and copper Roman coins.
The Roman IOLC coins proved central to the redis-
covery of the Mackenzie coin collection. While there
were always doubts as to the provenance of the many,
obviously non-Masson IOLC coins, particularly those
acquired in regions where Masson did not travel, it was
not until the Roman coins were studied and the most
likely collectors of these coins investigated that
Mackenzies name rst arose. James Prinseps 1832 arti-
cle cataloguing the coins in the Asiatic Society of
Bengals coin cabinet made Mackenzie stand out
among those collectors to be considered.
regretted that individuals who had collected coins and
medals in India
carried their spoil to England, where, indeed, they may
be mortied in nding them swallowed up and lost
among the immense profusion of similar objects in the
public and private cabinets of European antiquarians;
and they may perhaps regret that they did not leave
them where, from their rarity, they would have been
prized, and, from their presence, have promoted the
acquisition of further stores for antiquarian research
from the wide continent of India.
In this context, Prinsep mentioned that Mackenzies
collections had been purchased by the British East
India Company (EIC). Mackenzies wife sold them to
the EIC soon after his death. Although Mackenzie
wrote in 1809 that it would be my ambition to carry
home with me [a] body of materials that I conceive may
be very interesting to the Public if properly brought
forward, his will was less clear.
Mackenzie wrote: I
further bequeath to [gap] my collections, on the history
and antiquities of India.
The gap is tantalising.
Whatever his intentions may have been, Mackenzies
coin collections were thought to be lost, until the over-
whelmingly South Indian and Javanese components of
the IOLC coins turned out to be the missing Mackenzie
coins, as discovered in December 2011.
Many thousands of Late Roman Bronze coins have
been found in South India and Sri Lanka. In 2008
Walburg published a detailed study investigating the
presence and use of these coins in Sri Lanka.
usefulness of Walburgs comprehensive and analytical
work highlights the urgent necessity of undertaking a
similar study for LRB coins found in South India.
Below is a brief overview of the current state of scholar-
ship relating to the possible reasons behind the presence
of such large numbers of these coins in South India and
Sri Lanka, and also the way in which they may have
been used in these regions.
Literary sources and archaeological material have
long since attested the trade between various Indian
kingdoms and Roman Egypt,
although the trade
between India and Egypt, which was primarily indirect
in nature, began long before the rise of the Roman
Empire. It has been suggested that the systematic trade
between Egypt and India began in the late rst century
BC with the Roman annexation of Egypt. It allowed the
Romans to sail from the Red Sea, taking advantage of
the monsoon regimes and making some direct journeys.
180 Sushma Jansari
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1a: IOLC.4713 Coin of Gaius (Caligula) and (Straton) Medeos. 1b: IOLC.4718 Coin of Tiberius and Menander.
1c: IOLC.4746 Coin of Probus. 1d: IOLC.4747 Coin of Carus.
1e: IOLC.4753 Coin of Maximian.
1. Examples of coins acquired by Masson in Egypt.
2. Example of a coin possibly acquired in London. IOLC.4734 Coin of Vespasian.
3a: IOLC.4790 Coin of Honorius. 3b: IOLC.4801 Coin of Honorius. 3c: IOLC.4761 Coin of Constantius II.
3. Examples of coins probably acquired by Mackenzie in South India and/or Sri Lanka.
South Asian Studies 181
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Archaeological evidence indicates that this trade con-
tinued to ourish until it declined in the mid-third
century AD.
The fourth century saw a resurgence of
these trading relations and Roman involvement may
have continued until the sixth and possibly into the
seventh century.
Gold solidi dating from the second
phase of the Indo-Roman trade have been found in
although more bronze coins of this period
seem to have survived. The LRB coins were mainly
found in Tamil Nadu and southern Sri Lanka. A com-
parison between the three sets of coins, those from
Tamil Nadu (presented by Krishnamurthy), Sri Lanka
(presented by Walburg), and the IOLC coins, is both
interesting and revealing (Figure 1).
Krishnamurthys collection of LRB coins from
Tamil Nadu comprises over 4000 coins,
but because
of their poor state of preservation he was able to iden-
tify only 717 of them.
Of the Roman coins found in
Sri Lanka, Walburg presented 1430 as reliably veried
in terms of provenance.
The graph (Figure 2) presents
the results of a comparison between these three sets of
coins. The parameters used were the number of coins
from each collection that were minted within specic
time periods. These periods are based on Walburgs
periodization, but they have been adapted to include
both Krishnamurthys coins and those from the
Mackenzie collection.
Despite the considerable dierence in the number of
coins available for comparison from all three groups,
they show a very similar distribution:
All three groups demonstrate an increase in nds
of coins minted in Period IV and Period VII.
Only the coins from Tamil Nadu show a peak of
coins minted in Period X.
The Mackenzie coins and those from Tamil Nadu
peak in Period IV; those found in Sri Lanka do
not. Instead, the coins from Sri Lanka show an
overall increase in nds of coins minted between
AD 330 and 378.
All three sets of coins show an identical, dramatic
peak in coins minted in Period VII (AD 383
The Mackenzie and Sri Lanka groups then show a
gradual decline in coins minted between Period
VIII (AD 408) and Period XI (AD 474).
The Tamil Nadu group shows a sharp decline in
coins minted between Periods VIII and IX, fol-
lowed by a peak in Period X.
The similarity between the Mackenzie and Tamil Nadu
coins minted in Period IV and the Mackenzie and Sri
Lankan coins minted in AD 40874 suggests that the
Mackenzie collection may comprise coins from both
Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. Given that the poor state
of preservation allowed Krishnamurthy to identify only
717 coins from his collection of over 4000 LRB coins,
it is possible that the Tamil Nadu coins, when properly
identied, would have shown a similar, gradual
decrease from Period VIII to Period XI, rather than
the current peak in Period X. Of course, we cannot
exclude the possibility that the coins, when properly
identied, would still reveal the current trend.
It has not yet been possible to associate any specic
IOLC Mackenzie coins with precise nd spots, although
a thorough investigation of his numerous remaining
papers at the British Library, the National Library of
Scotland, and the Government Oriental Manuscripts
Library in Chennai may prove revealing. Two pieces
of information are, however, of use. The rst is a refer-
ence from Wilsons catalogue that mentions two nd
spots of some of Mackenzies Roman coins; the second
is a small collection of potsherds from Coimbatore
associated with some Roman copper or bronze coins
in the British Museum that were possibly formerly in
the Mackenzie collection.
In Volume Two of his Catalogue of Mackenzies
collection, Wilson divides all of the coins in the
Mackenzie collection into ve groups: Hindu,
Mohammedan,Ancient Europe,Modern Europe,
and Miscellaneous. He then subdivides these into
gold, silver, copper, and lead.
For ancient Europe,
Wilson notes thirty-four silver coins and 346 copper
coins, but gives an overall total of 280 pieces. While
there are thirty-four silver coins in his more detailed list
of these coins, only 236 copper coins have been enum-
erated. Ten seals and cameos are included at the end of
the list.
With the addition of these seals and cameos to
the number of copper coins, we arrive at a total of 246
items. The most likely explanation for this discrepancy
of 110 coins is that it results from a simple typographi-
cal error, as Wilsons sums for all of the other coins in
the catalogue are accurate.
Fifty-seven of the ancient European coins are spe-
cically identied as Roman, eight as Hellenistic, and
thirteen as Arsacid.
The identication of a group of
nineteen coins is considered uncertain. For the largest
group of 170 coins, the only information recorded is a
reference to two nd spots in South India: Mahavalipur
(more commonly known as Mahabalipuram) and
Cudapa (nowadays Kadapa). This is the only occasion
on which Wilson refers to nd spots for any ancient
European coins. It is, however, likely that most if not
all of the ancient European coins listed by Wilson
were acquired by Mackenzie and his colleagues in
India and/or Sri Lanka. Other silver and bronze
Hellenistic, early, and late Roman coins have been
found in South India, which adds extra weight to this
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Among these ancient European coins, three lots of cop-
per coins are of particular interest here: ve coins of
Constantine, nineteen uncertaincoins, and the 170
coins found at Mahabalipuram and Kadapa. The IOLC
collection includes one bronze coin of Constantine
(IOLC 4762), which may be one of the Constantine
coins found by Mackenzie and catalogued by Wilson.
For nineteen of the ancient European coins, Wilson
supplied neither descriptions nor an association with a
particular empire or dynasty. Similarly, the only infor-
mation Wilson oered about the 170 coins was their
origin in Mahabalipuram and Kadapa. We are not told
how many coins came from each location, and whether
they came from hoards or were individual nds. This
need not have been due to any oversight on Wilsons
part. Mackenzie or his colleagues may not have
recorded this information in detail; alternatively,
Wilson may have been unable to locate such descrip-
tions among Mackenzies numerous remaining papers.
What is more, the coins may have been in such a poor
condition that it was impossible to identify them indi-
vidually. Their resemblance to some of the Roman,
Hellenistic, or Arsacid coins in the Mackenzie collec-
tion may have led to their inclusion in this particular
section of the catalogue. Given the very poor state of
preservation of the overwhelming majority of the LRB
coins found in South India, I suggest that the 170 coins,
and possibly even the nineteen uncertaincoins, were
in fact LRB coins. Because of their poor condition,
even after cleaning in the British Museum Department
of Conservation and Scientic Research, some of these
coins could still not be identied precisely.
The his-
tory of Mahabalipuram and Kadapa, similar coin nds
from these places, and information in Wilsons catalo-
gue may help to bear out this suggestion.
Mahavalipur corresponds to the important ancient
city of Mahabalipuram, located on the Northeast coast
of Tamil Nadu.
It was the principal port of the Pallava
dynasty (ruling from around the fourth to the tenth
century AD),
and LRB coins have been found
The Pallavas maintained contact with Sri
Lanka from this port. Kadapa
is the name of both a
city and a district. It is located in the modern-day
province of Andhra Pradesh, just under two hundred
miles north-west of Mahabalipuram and approximately
ve miles south of the Penna River. Kadapa falls within
the territory of the ancient Chola Empire. Although
Kadapa itself is not mentioned in the Periplus Maris
Erythraei, three ports that very likely belonged to the
Chola kingdom are referred to: Argaru, Kamara, and
The Romans are known to have traded with
the Cholas, and Roman coins have also been found in
Given that other late Roman bronze coins
have been found in both Mahabalipuram and Kadapa,
perhaps the 170 coins that Wilson lists as ancient
European coins found in Mahabalipuram and Kudapa
may have been LRB coins. Possibly other copper coins,
including Hellenistic ones, may have been intermingled
with them.
Mackenzie was made aware of the presence of
Roman coins in Coimbatore by 1808, when William
Garrow, the Collector of this province, informed
Mackenzie that an Augustan denarius had been found
among silver punch-marked coins in a eld at Penar,
Such information may have led
Mackenzie further to investigate the presence of such
coins in Coimbatore and elsewhere in India. Mackenzie
dispatched his Maratta translator, Babu Rao, along part
of the Tamil Nadu coast in order to collect both coins
and information of a historical nature.
In his catalogue
of Mackenzies collection, Wilson includes Babu Raos
reports as a specimen of those produced by Mackenzies
nativecollectors. From this, we can tell that part of
Babu Raos remit was to procure gold and copper
Roman coins and, more importantly, that he succeeded.
He collected some coins at Mahabalipuram, although he
does not record whether these were Roman or not.
also employed some shermen at Alampara, where an
old sherwoman had formerly found two aurei,to
search for Roman coins, but they were only able to
nd one Roman copper coin on this occasion.
When the India Museum was closed, nine sherds of
a small earthenware pot were transferred to the British
Museum via the South Kensington Museum.
notes are associated with them. The rst reads:
Fragments of earthen vessel found with Roman coins
found at Vellaloor in Coimbatore.Jennifer Howes has
identied this handwriting as likely being that of Colin
The second note reads: Rec[eive]d via
Palmook. 13 Oct 1842. Fragments of the vessel in
which the coins were found. Referred to in letter from
the P[rovincia]l [?] Coll[ecto]r of Coimbatore dated
June 1842.
There is also a reference to these
sherds and coins in the South Kensington Museum
Register: Fragments of earthen vessel, found with
Roman coins at Vellaloor in Coimbatore, and 24 copper
or bronze coins.
It is certainly possible that some of
the late Roman bronze coins in the IOLC collection
may be associated with these sherds. It has proved to
be quite dicult to date the pot sherds precisely, partly
because the ceramic chronologies for this region are not
yet very well worked out. The type appears to be a
variant of Russet-Coated Painted Ware (black and red)
from the early Historic period.
It is certainly notable that the majority of the ancient
European coins (the group of 170 coins) as listed by
Wilson were found in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh,
so in South India. Based on their provenance, their
South Asian Studies 183
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description as copper coins, and the fact that Wilson did
not identify them in any detail or under any other head-
ing, I suggest that the coins from Kudapa and
Mahabalipuram were predominantly, if not entirely,
LRB coins.
While many thousands of LRB coins have been discov-
ered in South India and Sri Lanka, the earliest records
are from R. H. C. Tufnell (188788) and J. Still (1907),
and it was from the nineteenth century onwards that
they began to be studied in greater detail. Hypotheses
also began to be put forward to explain the presence of
so many of these low denomination coins in South India
and southern Sri Lanka in particular. Tufnell, writing in
188788 about coins found in Madura, suggested that
they were struck on the spot and were not importations
from Rome.
The reason given was that such coins
were not the kind of money that one would expect the
rich Roman merchant to bring in payment for the luxu-
ries of the East.
Instead, he believed that they pointed
to the existence of Roman settlements of agents who
collected local produce and conveyed it to the ships of
their employers when they arrived into port.
further suggested that these coins were struck specially
for the purpose of trade with a pauper population. . .
they are of so small a value as to be what one would
expect to nd in use when dealing with a people so poor
as the early Hindus.
This reference to apparently
universal Indian poverty is particularly curious in
view of his earlier comment that copper coins were
not sucient for Roman merchants to purchase expen-
sive luxury Indian goods.
R. Sewell took a similar line in 1904, writing that
though as a general rule it may be held that the pre-
sence of Roman coins does not necessarily imply the
presence of Roman traders, it seems with regard to
Madura almost impossible to account for this state of
things except on the supposition that Roman subjects
had taken up their residence here and made the city
their home, temporary if not permanent.
Considering the limited evidence available about such
coins from South India in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries, it is not surprising that Sewell
interpreted this as evidence of a Roman settlement.
Sewell also agreed with Tufnell that the coins were
used to make small, daily purchases from the local
Indian population. By contrast, in 1886 W. Elliot pro-
posed that these poor copper pieces could only have
been dropped by mariners and traders frequenting the
places where they now lie.
This view appears to have
been based on their nd spots in or near dunes and
sand-knolls by shing hamlets on the sea shore.
There is no indication in Elliots work that he believed
that these coins were used by Romans or Indians for
trading purposes in South India. In 1924 H. W.
Codrington produced the rst important work on those
coins found in Sri Lanka. Based on a quite detailed
analysis of evidence, he found that numerous, usually
rather worn bronze coins were found at almost every
port in Sri Lanka (except Trincomalee) and also at a
variety of locations in the interior.
This led him to
suggest that these coins formed the currency of the
Similarly, modern scholarship presents a range of
opinions in relation to the presence and use of LRB
coins in South India and Sri Lanka. In general, these
two regions tend to be dealt with separately and, where
they are discussed together, it is often assumed that the
LRB coins arrived and were used at both places in
either the same or a similar way. Walburgs pioneering
work clearly illustrates that this was not necessarily the
case, and that regional distributions and history need to
be taken into account in order to present a plausible
hypothesis for each region.
Based on a detailed and critical investigation,
Walburg proposed that LRB coins were most likely
shipped as merchandise into Sri Lanka from South
India during the second quarter of the fth century
AD, and were not imported directly to Sri Lanka from
the Mediterranean world. Furthermore, Walburgs
research suggests that these coins, and their imitations,
probably functioned as special purpose moneyfor
essentially monastic purposes, whereas punch-marked
coins and their imitations were used as all purpose
money(or general currency) in Sri Lanka.
This is in
contrast to, for example, A. Burnett, who suggested that
the LRB coins were used as coinage in Sri Lanka, while
some also functioned as dedications in a religious con-
text, for example those found at the Jetavanārāma stūpa
in Anuradhapura.
M. Mitchiner likewise thought that
the LRB coins were acceptable currency in Sri Lanka,
but he did not specify how and by whom the currency
was used.
For South India, B. Chattopadhyaya proposed that
the imported Roman currency supplemented the appar-
ently inadequatesupply of local currency.
Krishnamurthy suggested that both the Romans (or
their agents) and the local population would have used
these coins for their daily commercial transactions at
Madurai, Karur, and Tirukkoilur, where the majority of
the late Roman bronze coins have been found.
Mitchiner hypothesised that in the AD 330s the
Romans began making bulk payments for their pur-
chases in copper coins. He also made two distinctions.
Firstly, that some southern Indian kingdoms accepted
payments made with the copper coins, whereas others
only accepted gold. Secondly, he dierentiated between
184 Sushma Jansari
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Table 1. The 28 IOLC coins acquired by Masson in Egypt.
No. Date (AD) Reverse inscription Reverse type Mint Ruler Obverse inscription Cat. ref. Freq. IOLC
cent. BC ? Two cornucopiae,
Nabatea Aretas IV Illegible BMC Greek
(Arabia), p. 10.32
1 4710
2 ? ? Standing gure? ? Unknown Illegible ? 1 4720
31437 ΣΑΡΔΙΑΝΩΝ Apollo, crow, laurel
branch - all in wreath
Tiberius ΟΠΙΝΑΣΑΚΑΜΟΣ RPC 2990 (closest) 1 4716
41437 Illegible Two priests ploughing Philippi? Tiberius TI AVG DRVSVS CAESAR RPC 1658 1 4717
51437 ΑΛ[ΕΧΑΝΔΡΟΥ]ΑΝΤ[] Artemis - cult statue
with supports
Ephesus Tiberius-
[ΑΡΧ]ΙΕΡΕΟC RPC 2617 1 4722
Zeus of Aezani, eagle,
Aezani Tiberius-
ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΣ RPC 3068 1 4718
Zeus of Aezani standing
Aezani Gaius
ΓΑΙΟΣ ΚΑΙΣΑΡ RPC 3076, 3075 2 4711 4713
95468 ΒΑΡΓΑ[Σ]ΗΝΩΝ Heracles, club, lion skin Bargasa Nero ΝΕΡΩΝ ΚΑΙΣΑΡ RPC 2828(?) 1 4721
10 98117
ΜΕΙΛΗΤΟΠΟΛΕΙ ΤΩΝ Athena helmeted bust Mysia Hadrian-Trajan ΑΝΤΚΤΙΑΙΛ ΑΔΡΙΑΝΟ BMC Greek
(Mysia) pl. 21 cf.
Miletopolis, pl. 10
1 4712
11 222235 S-C DE S-C above, eagle below,
all within laurel
Antioch Severus
McAlee, pp. 312313 1 4725
1214 268269 L B Eagle, wreath in beak Alexandria Claudius II
AVTKKΛAV ΔIOCC EB BMC 2332, 2335 3 4739 4740
Bust right, laureate,
paludamentum and
Alexandria Aurelian L A ΑΚΛΔΟ
BMC 2384 1 4744
16 ruled
? Eagle, wreath in beak Alexandria Aurelian AKΛΔOMAVPHΛ
Milne 4388 1 4743
17 276/77 L B Eagle, wreath in beak Alexandria Probus AKMAVPΠΡΟ BOCCEB BMC 2427 1 4745
18 276/8 B L Elpis standing left Alexandria Probus AKMAVPΠΡΟ BOCCEB BMC 2427 1 4746
19 282/3 L A Dikaiosyne standing left Alexandria Carus AKMAKA POCCEB BMC 2441 1 4747
20 ruled
? Dikaiosyne standing left Alexandria Diocletian ΔIKΛHTI ANOCC EB BMC 2488 1 4738
21 284/5 L A Tyche recumbent left Alexandria Diocletian AKΓΟVAΛΔ
BMC 2527 1 4751
22 285/6 L A Eagle, wreath in beak Alexandria Maximian AKMOVAMA
BMC 2594 1 4754
23 285/7 L A Eirene standing left Alexandria Maximian AKMOVAMAIIM
BMC 2552 1 4755
24 286/7 L B Elpis standing left Alexandria Maximian AKMOVAMAIMIAN
BMC 2556 1 4752
25 287/8 L ΔAthena standing left Alexandria Diocletian AKΓΟVAΔIOKΛHTIA
BMC 2483 1 4749
2627 288/9 L E Eusebia of city standing
Alexandria Diocletian AKΓΟVAΔIOKΛ
BMC 2511 2 4748 4750
28 289/90 L E Tyche standing left Alexandria Maximian MAIIMI ANOCCEB BMC 2587 1 4753
South Asian Studies 185
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the monetary and non-monetary economies of South
Indian kingdoms: the Pandyas, Cholas, and Vels of
Karur accepted the bronze coins, while the Kongu
Rattas, Cheras, and Ay did not.
Although in his semi-
nar contribution Burnett primarily focused on Sri
he also looked at the LRB coins found in
South India and interpreted the evidence as suggesting
that they circulated as coins in this region.
D. W.
MacDowall proposed that, like the gold and silver
Roman coins before them, the bronze coins exported
to South India in the later fourth and early fth centu-
ries were valued for their metal content.
There is the additional problem of the ancient Greek
and Phoenician coins found in South India. While few
authors have dealt with the LRB coins found in South
India, even fewer have looked at the Hellenistic copper
coins also found in this region. Krishnamurthy has
interpreted the presence of such coins as indicating
direct trade between this region and the Mediterranean
world from the start of the rst millennium BC, under-
taken initially by the Phoenicians and, later, Hellenistic
D. W. Roller makes a similar deduction,
arguing that the Greek coins, mainly from the second
century BC, found in and around Karur, arrived via
direct Greek trade to South India that began with
Roller nds it implausiblethat
the Greek coins only appeared during Roman trade
with India.
Although Mitchiner agrees that the
Phoenician coins are likely to have arrived in India
prior to the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, he is
more circumspect about the Hellenistic coins.
suggests that, while some of the Hellenistic coins may
have arrived with Phoenician traders, others may well
have remained in circulation until they were shipped to
India during the rst and second centuries AD.
Burnett more convincingly argues that these coins
arrived in South India and possibly Sri Lanka at the
same time and in the same way as the LRB coins, as
they t the prole of hoards found in the eastern
Mediterranean that date to the later Roman Empire.
There is little doubt that an in-depth study of the late
Roman bronze coins found in South India is long over-
due. Research is needed that takes into account the
precise locations in which these coins were found,
hoard compositions (where available), and the archae-
ology and history of the region. A comparison between
the LRB coins found in South India and Sri Lanka is
also necessary. The history and coinage of the later
Roman Empire must be taken into account in order to
ascertain why particular issues appear to be better
represented than others. T. S. N. Moorhead, for example,
surmises that the presence of LRB coins in South India
and Sri Lanka might show the extension of the
Mediterranean nummus economyto the region.
and MacDowall
have raised important ques-
tions about the value of such coins within the Roman
Empire and the eect of, for example, the decree of AD
recorded in the Theodosian Code, which stated
that twenty-ve pounds of bronze were valued at one
gold solidus.
Table 2. The coins acquired by Charles Masson in Cairo/Egypt
with matching IOLC coins that may be identied with some of
Authority Reverse type No. of coins Possible IOLC match
Alexander 1
Ptolemy The eagle 26
Two eagles 5
Peculiar bust 2
(Lead or silver?) 1
Cleopatra 1
Roman 40
Probus Eagle- reverse 48 4745
Figure- reverse 36 4746
Severus? 1 4725
Aurelian 29 4743, 4744
Tacitus Eagle- reverse 3
Figure- reverse 6
Some unknown name 3
Sundry Probus & Aurelian 19
Ptolemy 1
Byzantine coins 38
Total 260
Charles Masson Uncatalogued manuscript, British Library India Oce Collection, Bundle 1, F.2v and F.3: list of 260 Coins procured in Egypt/
Cairo, watermark 1843.
All the information presented in this table is quoted verbatim from Charles Massons own notes.
186 Sushma Jansari
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Table 3. The 19 IOLC coins probably procured in London.
No. Date (AD) Reverse inscription Reverse type Mint Ruler Obverse inscription Cat. ref. Freq. IOLC
29 71 PROVIDENT / S C Altar Lyon Vespasian IMP CAES VESPASIAN
RIC 1166 1 4734
Libertas (?) standing
RIC 309 1 4735
31 103111 SPQR OPTIMO
Victory standing
Rome Trajan VIC DAC RIC 527 1 4736
32 141 AETERNITAS S C Aeternitas seated left Rome Faustina the Elder DIVA AVG FAVSTINA RIC 1103 1 4737
33 ruled
APOLLINI CONS AVG Centaur, globe,
? Gallienus GALLIENVS AVG Besly & Bland
1 4729
34 ruled
VIRTVS AVGVSTI Virtus, globe ? Gallienus GALLIENVS AVG Besly & Bland
1 4731
35 269274 ? Worn ? Victorinus~
Tetricus I
Illegible ? 1 4826
36 ruled
ORIENS AVG Sol standing left Mediolanum Aurelian AVRELIANVS AVG RIC 135 1 4742
3738 ruled
CONSECRATIO Altar ames ? Claudius DIVO CLAVDIO Besly & Bland
2875 / 2873
2 4726 4727
39 ruled
ANNONA AVG Annona, corn ears,
cornucopia, ships
? Claudius DIVO CLAVDIO Bland & Burnnett
1 4728
40 ruled
? Pax standing left ? Tetricus I PAX AVG Besly & Bland
1 4733
41 ruled
PIETAS AVGG Unclear Gaul Tetricus II C PIV ESV / C P E
Bland & Burnnett
1 4730
42 c.275285 ? Salus feeding snake
at altar
? ? Illegible ? 1 4732
43 275285 ? Standing gure;
Salus feeding
snake at altar (?)
? ? Illegible ? 1 4828
44 275285 ? Standing gure ? ? Illegible ? 1 4829
45 313315 SOLI INVIC-TO
Sol radiate, globe Trier Constantine I CONSTANTINVS P F AVG RIC 4647 1 4756
46 316317 SOLI INVIC-TO
Sol standing, globe London Constantine I IMP CONSTANTINVS
RIC 89/109 1 4757
47 330339 ? Salus feeding snake
at altar
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Table 4. The 70 IOLC coins probably acquired by Mackenzie in South India and/or Sri Lanka.
No. Date (AD) Reverse inscription Reverse type Mint Ruler Obverse inscription Cat. ref. Freq. IOLC
Jupiter standing left Antioch Licinius II D N VAL LICIN
RIC 29 1 4759
49 321324 IOVI CONS-ERVATORI Jupiter standing left Heraclea Licinius I IMP C VAL LICIN
RIC 52 1 4758
50 335337 GLOR-IA EXERC-ITVS Two soldiers, one
Alexandria Constantius II CONSTANTINVS IVN
RIC 66 1 4761
51 335341 GLORIA EXERCITVS Worn. Two soldiers, one
standard (?)
? Constantius II Illegible ? 1 4760
52 347348 VN-MR Emperor standing right Constantinople Constantine I DV CONSTANTI-NVS
RIC 68 1 4762
5355 347348 VOT/XX/MVLT/XXX D
Legend within wreath ?, Heraclea Constans-Constan tius II D N CONSTAN-TINVS
RIC 76, 47 3 4763 4764
56 351355 FEL TEMP-REPARATIO Soldier advancing left,
spearing falling
Heraclea Constantius II D N CONSTAN-TINVS
RIC 90 1 4767
5759 355361 SPES REI-PVBLICAE Emperor standing left Constantinople Constantius II D N CONSTAN-TINVS
RIC 151 3 4768 4769 4770
60 355378 Illegible ? ? ? Illegible ? 1 4795
61 366367 SECVRITAS - REI
Victory standing left Constantinople Valens DN VALENS - PF AVG LRBC 2088 1 4774
6263 366367 SECVRITAS - REI
Victory, wreath, palm Constantinople Valentinian I DN VALENTINI-
LRBC 2087 2 4772 4773
64 366375 GLORIA RO-
Emperor dragging
captive right and
holding standard in
Constantinople Valens DN VALENS - PF AVG LRBC 2086/2107 1 4771
65 378383 CONCOR-DIA AVGGG Roma seated, facing Constantinople Gratian DN GRATIA-NVS PF
LRBC 2121 1 4776
66 378383 CONCOR-DIA AVGGG Constantinopolis, globe,
Cyzicus Theodosius I DN THEODO-SIVS PF
LRBC 2536 1 4775
6774 383392 SALVS REI-PVBLICAE Victory, trophy, captive Antioch(2),
Constantinople (4),
Theodosius I Illegible LRBC 2761.,
2183, 2184/2192,
8 4780 4786 4787
4784 4781
4782 4778
75 383 VOT/X/MVLT/XX Legend within wreath ? Valentinian II DN VALENTINIANVS
LRBC 2156 1 4766
7680 383392 SALVS REI PVBLICAE Victory, trophy, captive Constantinople (3),
Cyzicus (2)
LRBC 2185,
2568., 2570/
2 4785 4788 4822
4777 4783
81 383393 SALVS REI-PVBLICAE Victory, trophy, captive Constantinople (2),
Cyzicus (2)
Maximian Illegible LRBC 2183 1 4789
82 393395 GLORIA ROMANORVM Emperor, labarum,
Cyzicus Theodosius I DN THEODO-SIVS PF
LRBC 2571 1 4723
83 393395 GLORIA ROMANORVM Emperor, labarum,
Antioch Honorius DN HONORIVS PF
LRBC 2790 1 4790
8485 395401 VIRTVS EXERCITI Emperor standing
? Honorius DN HONORI-VS PF
LRBC 2581, 2205 2 4801 4824
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No. Date (AD) Reverse inscription Reverse type Mint Ruler Obverse inscription Cat. ref. Freq. IOLC
8691 395401 VIRTVS EXERCITI Emperor standing
Constantinople Arcadius-Honorius DN [ARCADI /
LRBC 2205,
6 4791 4794 4798
4802 4803
92 395401 VIRTVS EXERCITI Emperor with spear and
shield, on horseback
Nicomedia Arcadius-Honorius DN ARCADI-VS PF
LRBC 2440 1 4800
9395 395401 VIRTVS EXERCITI Emperor standing
Constantinople Arcadius DN ARCADI-VS PF
LRBC 2205 3 4792 4793 4799
96 395401 VIRTVS EXERCITI Emperor standing
Constantinople ? DN [ARCADI /
LRBC 2205 1 4827
97 395408 CONCORDIA AVGG Constantinopolis
seated facing
Constantinople ? Illegible LRBC 2210 1 4796
Roma seated, facing Constantinople ? Illegible LRBC 2121/2210 1 4797
99107 406408 GLORIA ROMANORVM Three emperors
standing, facing
? ? Illegible LRBC 28012804,
9 4805 4806
4807 4808
4809 4810
4812 4825
108 408423 GLORIA ROMANORVM Two emperors standing,
LRBC 1876 1 4813
109 423425 SALVS REI-PVBLICAE Victory advancing to
Rome Iohannes D N THEODOSI-VS P
RIC 1912. 1 4814
110111 425435 Illegible Cross in wreath Eastern (Thessalonica,
Nicomedia, Cyzicus,
Antioch or
RIC 440. 1 4815 4816
112 457474 Illegible Leo I's regular Latin
monogram within
Heraclea Leo I D N LE-ON VG RIC 682. 1 4817
113 565578 Illegible ? ? Justin II Illegible DOC I 60a 1 4823
114117 4th-5th cent. Illegible ? ? ? Illegible ? 4 4818 4819
4820 4821
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The current evidence suggests that LRB coins were
indeed shipped from a region where their value was low
(the Roman Empire) to a region where their value was
higher (India). The coins may have functioned as con-
venient ballast used by merchants engaged in the Indo-
Roman trade. While in South India some LRB coins
may have been valued for their metal content alone, it is
likely that they were used as currency in both South
India and Sri Lanka. A detailed study of these coins is
an integral part of evaluating the wider implications of
the Indo-Roman and South Indian-Sri Lankan trade.
Such research would help illuminate the scale and dura-
tion of trading links between the Mediterranean world,
South India, and Sri Lanka. It would also provide a
more detailed insight into the market for Indian
goods and commodities in the eastern and western
parts of the Roman Empire and their consumption in
these regions.
The Roman coins in the IOLC collection derive from
at least three separate, original collections, with the
majority of the coins coming from the Masson and
Mackenzie collections. Masson almost certainly
acquired from Egypt the twenty-eight coins that origi-
nate from Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean. It is
likely that Mackenzie and his colleagues were respon-
sible for collecting the coins that tend to be found in
South India and Sri Lanka. Only the coins from
Western Europe cannot be linked to a specic collec-
tor or collectors.
The 117 coins presented here provide an insight
into Masson and Mackenzies collecting practices, as
well as into the diverse composition of their collec-
tions. The rediscovery of the Mackenzie collection at
the British Museum, the survival not only of a con-
siderable number of Mackenzies coins, but also of
his papers and much of his varied Indian materia
antiqua, is fortunate. It presents a unique opportunity
to study, through Mackenzie and his colleagues, not
only late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-
century collecting practices, but also the history of
South India.
Abbreviations used in the tables
Besly & Bland E. Besly, R. Bland, and others, The
Cunetio Treasure: Roman Coinage of the Third Century
A.D. (London: British Museum Press, 1983)
Bland & Burnett The Normanby Hoard and Other
Roman Coin Hoards, ed. by R. Bland and A. Burnett
(London: British Museum Press, 1988)
Table 5. Summary of the Mackenzie LRB coins found in South
India and/or Sri Lanka.
No. Reverse inscription Date (AD) Freq.
317320 1
52 VN-MR 347348 1
5355 VOT/XX/MVLT 347348 3
5759 SPES REI PVBLICAE 355361 3
60 Illegible 355378 1
366367 3
378383 2
6774, 7677 SALVS REI PVBLICAE 383392 10
75 VOT/X/MVLT/XX 383 1
7980 GLORIA ROMANORVM 393395 2
8193 VIRTVS EXERCITI 395401 13
9495 CONCORDIA AVGG 395408 2
96103 GLORIA ROMANORVM 406408 9
106 Illegible 425435 1
107 Illegible 457474 1
108 565578 1
109112 4
cent. 4
Table 6. The Roman copper coins from the Mackenzie
Collection as listed by H. H. Wilson.
No. Description Frequency
13 Augustus 3
4 Claudius Caesar 1
56 Julia Augusta 2
78 Vespasian 2
910 Domitian 2
11 Nerva 1
1216 Trajan 5
1719 Adrian 3
2021 Antoninus Pius 2
22 Faustina 1
2324 Gordian 2
25 Philip 1
26 Gallienus 1
2728 Claudius 2
2930 Aurelian 2
31 Florian 1
32 Probus 1
33 Carus 1
34 Victorinus 1
35 Posthumus 1
36 Constantius Chlorus 1
3741 Constantine 5
4261 Uncertain 19
62232 Coins found at Mahavalipur and Cudapa 170
190 Sushma Jansari
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BMC (Alexandria) R. S. Poole, Catalogue of the
Greek Coins in the British Museum (London: British
Museum Press, 1892)
McAlee R. McAlee, The Coins of Roman Antioch
(Lancaster: Classical Numismatic Group, 2007)
Milne J. G. Milne, Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins
(Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1933)
RPC A. Burnett, M. Amandry, and P. Ripollès,
Roman Provincial Coinage (London: British Museum
Press, 1992)
I am grateful to Elizabeth Errington for having given me
the opportunity to work with the Roman coins in the
Masson and Mackenzie Collections under the aegis of the
Masson Project in the Department of Coins and Medals at
the British Museum. I also owe considerable thanks to Joe
Cribb, Sam Moorhead, and Robert Bracey, who shared their
knowledge and insight so generously; Jennifer Howes for
her help with matters pertaining to Colin Mackenzie; and
Roberta Tomber and her colleagues V. Selvakumar, K.
Rajan, and Gwen Kelly, who shared their expertise in
relation to the Mackenzie pot sherds. Reinhold Walburg
kindly read through the article and catalogue and his com-
ments saved me from many a slip up. This work could not
have been done without them. All mistakes, however,
remain my own.
1. E. Errington and V. Sarkhosh Curtis, Fr o m
Persepolis to the Punjab: Exploring Ancient Iran,
Afghanistan, and Pakistan (London: British
Museum Press, 2007), p. 207.
2. G. Whitteridge, Charles Masson of Afghanistan:
Explorer, Archaeologist, Numismatist, and
Intelligence Agent (Warminster: Aris & Phillips,
1986), p. 1.
3. For further information about Massons career,
see ibid. and E. Errington, Charles Masson,
Encyclopaedia Iranica (2004) <http://www.irani-> [accessed
12 March 2012]. Please note that modern names
have been used for the regions through which
Masson travelled, for reasons of consistency and
4. Errington and Sarkhosh Curtis, p. 13.
5. Whitteridge, p. 157.
6. Errington, Charles Masson.
7. C. E. Buckland, Dictionary of Indian Biography
(London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1906), p. 263.
8. J. Howes, Illustrating India: The Early Colonial
Investigations of Colin Mackenzie (17841821)
(New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010), p.
2; Buckland, p. 262; C. Allen, The Buddha and the
Sahibs: The Men Who Discovered Indias Lost
Religion (London: John Murray, 2002), p. 117.
9. Allen, p. 120.
10. Howes, pp. 196, 198201, 208.
11. Ibid., pp. 67, 19293; H. H. Wilson, Mackenzie
Collection: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental
Manuscripts and other Articles Illustrative of the
Literature, History, Statistics, and Antiquities of the
South of India; Collected by the Late Lieut. Col. Colin
Mackenzie, Surveyor of India, 2 vols (Calcutta:
Asiatic Press,1828), I, xiii.
12. Wilson.
13. Howes, p. 227; Allen, p. 123.
14. Howes, p. 227; IOR F/4/867, Coll. 22924, .
15. Howes, p. 1; Buckland, p. 263; Allen, pp. 12324.
16. E. Errington, Discovering ancient Afghanistan.
The Masson Collection,Minerva, 13.6 (2002),
17. R. Desmond, The India Museum, 18011879
(London: Her Majestys Stationery Oce, 1982),
pp. 3839.
18. F. W. Thomas, letter to S. C. Cockerell, Director
of the Fitzwilliam Museum, dated 15 November
1912, Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum Library
Archives cf. Errington and Sarkhosh Curtis, p. 13.
19. Whitteridge, p. 157.
20. Charles Masson, Uncatalogued manuscript,
British Library India Oce Collection, Bundle 1,
f. 2v and f. 3: list of 260 Coins procured in
Egypt/Cairo, watermark 1843.
21. IOLC 4720 is too worn to be identied with any
22. Charles Masson, Uncatalogued manuscript: list of
260 Coins procured in Egypt/Cairo, watermark
23. Charles Masson, Uncatalogued manuscript: list of
260 Coins procured in Egypt/Cairo, watermark
24. A. Cameron, The Mediterranean World in Late
Antiquity, AD 395600 (London: Routledge,
1993), pp. 7, 128, discusses this complex question
at greater length.
25. It must be noted that all of the IOLC coins were
cleaned and conserved by the British Museum
prior to their identication in this study. Masson
did not have this benet, so may not have been
able to see the inscriptions clearly.
26. Errington and Sarkhosh Curtis, p. 12.
27. Charles Masson Uncatalogued manuscript, British
Library India Oce Collection, Bundle 2: scrap
notebook, watermark 1853, f. 14v.
28. Errington and Sarkhosh Curtis, p. 14.
29. R. Krishnamurthy, Ancient Greek and Phoenician
Coins from Karur, Tamil Nadu, India (Chennai:
South Asian Studies 191
Downloaded by [University College London] at 08:52 08 October 2015
Garnet, 2009); R. Walburg, Coins and Tokens
from Ancient Ceylon; Ancient Ruhuna: Sri
Lankan-German Archaeological Project in the
Southern Province, Vol. 2, Forschungen zur
Archäologie außereuropäischer Kulturen, V
(Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2008).
30. Wilson, II, ccxxiv.
31. J. Prinsep, On the Ancient Roman Coins in the
Cabinet of the Asiatic Society,Journal of the
Asiatic Society of Bengal (September 1832), pp.
32. Ibid., p. 392.
33. Letter dated 28 February 1809. NAS, GD46/17/10,
f. 523. See Howes, p. 2.
34. IOR L/AG/34/29/33, . 24953.
35. Walburg.
36. For ancient sources, see for example Pliny,
Natural History, trans. by H. Rackham, 10 vols
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
193863), VI, 10106; Strabo, The Geography of
Strabo, trans. by H. L. Jones, 8 vols (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 191732), I, chap-
ter 2.5.12; The Periplus Maris Erythraei: Text with
Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, trans.
by L. Casson (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1989). A considerable number of recent
books and articles discuss various aspects of the
trade. For a good overview, see for example R.
Tomber, Indo-Roman Trade: From Pots to Pepper
(London: Duckworth, 2008).
37. Tomber, pp. 154, 161.
38. Ibid., p. 161.
39. Gold coins from the second major phase of Indo-
Roman trade have also been found in India. See
for example P. Turner, Roman Coins from India
(London: Royal Numismatic Society, 1989), esp.
pp. 48, 86, 116; P. Berghaus, Roman Coins from
India and their Imitations,inCoinage, Trade, and
Economy, January 8
1991, ed. by A. K. Jha
(Nashik: Indian Institute of Research in
Numismatic Studies, 1991), pp. 108121.
40. R. Krishnamurthy, Late Roman Copper Coins from
South India: Karur, Madurai, and Tirukkoilur, 2nd
edn (Chennai: Garnet, 2007), p. viii.
41. Ibid., p. 91.
42. Walburg, p. 53. Walburg bases his selection of
these coins on their veried provenance and
other conrmed data.
43. Walburg, p. 53.
44. Wilson, II, ccxxiv.
45. Ibid., II, ccxxxi.
46. Wilsons inclusion of the Arsacid coins under the
heading Ancient Europeis curious, because the
Arsacids were Parthians. Wilson lists them with-
out further qualication. I assume that he thought
that they t under the Ancient Europeheading
better than under any of the others. The IOC
Register has fourteen coins listed as Parthian
(IOC 40417) and nine coins listed as Partho-
Persian (IOC 41826). Lots 74247 from the
India Museum sale as presented in the Sotheby,
Wilkinson, and Hodge Catalogue of 1887
included a number of Parthian and Sasanian silver
and copper coins.
47. See, for example, M. Mitchiner, The Coinage and
History of Southern India. Part One: Karnataka
Andhra (London: Hawkins, 1998), pp. 11018; M.
Mitchiner, Coin Circulation in Southernmost India
(Maharashtra: Indian Institute of Research in
Numismatic Studies, 1995), pp. 8488, 9498.
48. R. H. C. Tufnell, Hints to Coin Collectors in South
India, Parts I and II, 2 vols (Madras: Scott Stamp
and Coin Company, 188788), II, 4 mentions how
poor the condition of such coins is, writing: On the
obverse of all that I have met with appears an
emperors head, but so worn that with one or two
exceptions the features are well nigh obliterated. In
one or two specimens a faint trace of an inscription
appears running around the obverse, but hitherto I
have not come across a single specimen in which
more than one or two letters are distinguishable.
Mitchiner, Coin Circulation,p.94reiteratesthis,
writing: Many of these late Roman small copper
coins are no longer well enough preserved to iden-
tify them by reading the emperors name. Some
general attributions can be made on the basis of
coin size and reverse design.
49. Wilson, II, 238 also refers to Mahabalipuram as
50. D. Ludden, India and South Asia: A Short History
(Oxford: Oneworld, 2002), p. 37.
51. Mitchiner, Coinage and History, pp. 11618;
Mitchiner, Coin Circulation, p. 13; M. Wheeler,
Arikamedu: An Indo-Roman Trading Station on
the East Coast of India,Ancient India: Bulletin of
the Archaeological Survey of India, 2 (1946), nos.
2425, Appendix I, pp. 11621: Roman Coins,
First Century BC to Fourth Century AD, Found
in India and Ceylon.
52. Also spelled Cuddapah.
53. Periplus Maris Erythraei, chapters 59.20.1, 60.20.6.
54. For example, see R. Sewell, Roman Coins Found
in India,Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
(October 1904), pp. 591637 (pp. 599, 602).
Sewell mentioned that Roman gold coins dating
to AD 68217 had been found in both the
Cuddapah (Kudapa) and Nellore districts.
55. J. Allan, Catalogue of the Indian Coins in the
British Museum (London: British Museum,
1967), p. liv.
192 Sushma Jansari
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56. Wilson, II, ccxlvii.
57. Ibid., II, ccxlvii.
58. South Kensington Register, p. 29, no. 1120 (unpub-
lished). The South Kensington Museum had its ori-
gins in the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was later
renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum.
59. Personal correspondence. Jennifer Howes is the
Curator of India Oce prints, drawings, and
photographs at the British Library.
60. The Imperial Gazetteer of India, vol. 4 (Oxford: [n.
pub.],1907), p. 49 refers to the head of the District
as the Provinces Collector and Magistrate.
Reconstruction kindly provided by Joe Cribb
and Elizabeth Errington.
61. South Kensington Museum Register, p. 29, no.
1120 (formerly East India Companys India
Museum no. 14).
62. Roberta Tomber kindly looked at the pot sherds in
person and forwarded the details and a photo-
graph to her colleagues, V. Selvakumar, K.
Rajan, and Gwen Kelly, who identied them
more precisely from this information.
63. Tufnell, II, 2.
64. Ibid., II, 3.
65. Ibid., II, 3.
66. Ibid., II, 4.
67. Sewell, pp. 61415.
68. W. Elliot, Coins of Southern India (London: The
International Numismata Orientalia, 1886), p. 35.
69. Ibid., p. 35.
70. The exception was Trincomalee. H. W. Codrington,
Ceylon Coins and Currency, Memoirs of the Colombo
Museum, ed. by J. Pearson, Series A, III (Colombo:
Ceylon Government, 1 924), p. 33.
71. Codrington, p. 33.
72. Walburg, p. 343.
73. A. Burnett, Roman Coins from India and Sri
Lanka,inOrigin, Evolution, and Circulation of
Foreign Coins in the Indian Ocean, ed. by O.
Bopearachchi and D. P. M. Weerakkody (New
Delhi: Manohar, 1998), pp. 18687. On page 185
and, more recently, in personal communication
with the author (4 July 2012) Burnett suggests
that the available evidence regarding the pattern
of nds in both South India and Sri Lanka indi-
cates that the material arrived at one or more
points within the region and was then diused
across a wider area. Burnett emphasised, however,
that this is not a rm conclusion and further
research may shed more light.
74. Mitchiner, Coinage and History, p. 117. Burnett, p.
185 writes that coins were exported to Sri Lanka
from the Roman Empire.
75. B. Chattopadhyaya, Coins and Currency Systems
in South India, c. AD 2251300 (New Delhi:
Munshiram Manoharlal, 1977), p. 117.
76. Krishnamurthy, Late Roman Copper Coins,p.94.
77. Mitchiner, Coinage and History, p. 122.
78. Ibid., p. 123.
79. The title of the seminar was Circulation of
Foreign Coins in Sri Lanka and Ancient Sea
Routes in the Indian Ocean. The meeting took
place in Colombo, Sri Lanka, between 8 and 10
September 1994. For further information, see
EditorsNote in Origin, Evolution, and
Circulation of Foreign Coins in the Indian Ocean.
80. Burnett, pp. 183, 187.
81. D. W. MacDowall, Foreign Coins Found in
India: In View of the Monetary Systems
Operating in the Countries of Their Origin,in
Foreign Coins Found in the Indian Subcontinent:
January, 1995; 4
Colloquium, Nashik, Indian Institute of
Research in Numismatic Studies, ed. by D. W.
MacDowall and A. Jha (Nashik: Indian Institute
of Research in Numismatic Studies, 1995), pp.
914 (p. 13).
82. Krishnamurthy, Ancient Greek and Phoenician
83. D. W. Roller, A Note on Greek Coins from
Tamilnadu,Numismatic Digest, 19 (1995), 3741
(p. 39).
84. Ibid., p. 40.
85. Mitchiner, Coin Circulation,pp.8485; Mitchiner,
Coinage and History, pp. 11214.
86. Mitchiner, Coin Circulation, p. 85; Mitchiner,
Coinage and History, pp. 11011.
87. Burnett, p. 186.
88. T. S. N. Moorhead, The Coinage of the Later
Roman Empire, 364498,inThe Oxford
Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage,
W. Metcalf (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2012), pp. 60132 (p. 624). The nummus econ-
omyrefers, broadly speaking, to an economy
based on the use of nummi (small copper
coins). For more information see ibid., pp.
89. Burnett, p. 186.
90. MacDowall, p. 13.
91. Theodosian Code, 11.21.2.
South Asian Studies 193
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... 5 Since the meanings that Roman coins and their imitations held across India relate to local practices, the study of Roman coins is therefore a simultaneous study of associated practices. Recent works have also begun to redress the gap in understanding collection practices involving Roman coins in India (Darley 2015b) and historiography of specific collections (Darley 2012;Jansari 2013). ...
With the enactment of Anastasius's monetary reforms of AD 498, the Western Roman Empire had collapsed and Constantinople now ruled over the rump state that was to be called the Byzantine Empire by historians. This period witnessed the continued dominance of Roman gold coinage, whose issue was zealously controlled by the emperor. It survived the fall of the western empire to become the core piece of the Byzantine Empire for centuries to come. Until AD 402, there were copious silver issues from numerous mints, but output was greatly reduced for much of the fifth century. There was an attempt in 379 to reform the bronze coinage again, providing three denominations. However, this too failed, and from the late fourth century, small denomination coins dominated the currency pool. After 425, only the nummus was produced, heralding an era in which there were only largedenomination gold and the tiniest coppers in circulation.
Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum
  • S Poole
S. Poole, Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum (London: British Museum Press, 1892) McAlee – R.
The Coins of Roman Antioch (Lancaster: Classical Numismatic Group
  • Mcalee
McAlee, The Coins of Roman Antioch (Lancaster: Classical Numismatic Group, 2007) Milne – J.
Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins
  • G Milne
G. Milne, Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1933) RPC – A.
The Buddha and the Sahibs: The Men Who Discovered India's Lost Religion
  • C Buckland
  • Allen
Buckland, p. 262; C. Allen, The Buddha and the Sahibs: The Men Who Discovered India's Lost Religion (London: John Murray, 2002), p. 117.