Did the Scythians cast arrow coins of the ancient Greek city?

The first coins of Kerkinitida, the most ancient Greek city in the Western Crimea (modern Evpatoria), may have been cast by “migrating” Scythian craftsmen. This is evidenced by the results of a study of their alloy, published in a recent issue of the magazine Stratum plus.
Kerkinitida was founded in the third quarter of the 6th century. BC. In the second half of the 4th century. BC. she became part of the Chersonesos state, and in the second half of the II century. BC. was captured by the late Scythians.

During its heyday, Kerkinitida was a relatively large city – an area of ​​about 5.3 hectares. It was protected by powerful walls that surrounded dense internal buildings. The latter was regular: houses were blocked in blocks, separated by a grid of streets. These buildings of the classical and Hellenistic times have survived in Kerkinitida better than in other ancient cities of the Northern Black Sea region.

The earliest coins of Kerkinitida were small – 1.7-2.2 mm long – castings in the form of arrows with two blades. They were probably cast in the first third of the 5th century. BC. and was actively used until the middle of the same century. Similar arrow coins were found in other cities of the North-Western Black Sea region – on Berezan and Olbia (modern Ukraine), Istria (Romania), Odessa, Messembria and Apollonia Pontic (Bulgaria). But coins from Kerkinitida differ somewhat in shape.

The authors of the article in Stratum plus are V.A. Kutaisov (Doctor of History) and T.N. Smekalov (Doctor of Historical Sciences, Kazan Federal University, Kurchatov Institute) – 17 coins-arrows were selected for research, which are stored in the Evpatoria Museum of Local Lore. The composition was determined using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy.

It turned out that these coins were cast from bronze, which, in addition to the usual additives – tin and lead, also contained antimony: from 2.4 to 11.4%. It is interesting that the same results were obtained earlier by Romanian and Italian researchers, however, for only two Kerkinite coins-arrows.

Antimony bronze is a rather rare alloy for the ancient metallurgy of the Northern and North-Western Black Sea regions. The closest analogy is a few arrow coins from Apolonia Pontic and Istria, as well as cast wheel-shaped coins from the latter. There is no antimony in other antique coins of the Black Sea region. But it was found in several other items – in bronze mirrors from the Olbia Museum, as well as in two things from the vicinity of Anapa.

Much more objects of antimony bronze are associated with the Scythians – these are combat arrowheads with three blades and without a protruding sleeve. True, they also originate from the Greek centers – from Berezan, from Olbia, Istria, the vicinity of Evpatoria, Anapa region, but there are arrowheads with such an addition in the “Scythian” Middle Dnieper region. Interestingly, at Art. Silk in the basin of the Seversky Donets found a spearhead, which preserved gutter, and besides – the fragments of a bilge and crucible. These findings suggest that the arrowheads were cast on site, that is, in the Scythian area.

Such analogies led the authors of the article to the idea that Kerkinite arrow coins were cast by Scythian craftsmen. Perhaps they were foundry workers who “wandered” from place to place. This assumption is interesting in a broader context: it is known that Kerkinitida had a special, close relationship with the Scythians. This is evidenced by the accumulation of nomadic burial mounds near the city, the images of the Scythians on the coins, and in addition – the letter from Apatorius to Nemeny from the excavations in Evpatoria. This letter, scratched on the wall of the amphora, mentions, among other things, a tribute to the Scythians.

V.A. Kutaisov and T.N. Smekalova join the opinion of the Romanian colleagues, who proposed an original reconstruction of how money appeared in the North-Western Black Sea region. They could act as combat arrowheads – at first they “walked” from the Scythians, then the Greeks borrowed this method from the barbarians, so that they could also settle accounts with them. Later, the tips, which were used as money, began to earn extra money, to dull. At the third stage, arrow coins began to be cast.

Based on the article: Kutaisov V.A., Smekalova T.N. Alloy composition of cast coins of Kerkinitida V century. BC e. and “migrating” Scythian master casters. // Stratum plus. – 2020 – No. 6. Mysteries of travel. – S. 179-188.

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