AVARS OR KHAZARS. 9th-10th centuries. 'Runic Dirham' (Silver, 25 mm, 2.63 g), uncertain mint in eastern Europe, circa 813/4-944/5. In inner field, 'Blessing to Uzbek' (in Kufic) below word in runiform script consisting of three letters; in outer margin, heart-shaped tamgha and legend containing seventeen letters with four pellets possibly seperating individual words. Rev. In inner field, runiform legend containing thirteen letters; in outer margin, runiform legend containing fourteen letters with four pellets possibly seperating individual words. A. Róna-Tas, pl. XIV, type A. Hermitage Museum, Inv. Kh 3184, Inv. No. 3763. Of the highest rarity and of great historical importance, the first example offered for sale in a public auction. Light doubling, otherwise, good very fine.
From a European collection, formed before 2005.
The runic inscription on the obverse and reverse of this highly important issue represents a hitherto undeciphered script of Avaric or Khazaric origin. Consisting of 48 letters, it was first published by H. D. Fraehn in 1832 and later also studied by R. Göbl. Similar runiform inscriptures were found on several object from the famous Treasure of Nagyszentmiklós, connected to the Avar Khaganate. Furthermore, the heart-shaped tamgha on 12 o'clock on the obverse is very similar to a tamgha on the Sedyarsky jug found in Perm in 1884.
Another type discussed by A. Róna-Tas (pl. XV, type B), with a similar runic inscription, helps us dating the coins as the Kufic legend in the inner field of the obverse cites ‘Dhu'l Riyasatayn’ (Holder of the two Ministries), referring to al-Fadl ibn Sahl al-Sarakhsi (circa AD 770-818), the vizier of the caliph al-Ma'mun. This provides a terminus post quem for type B of AH 198 = AD 813/4. The terminus ante quem, on the other hand, derives from the Kozyankovsko hoard, discovered near Polotsk in Belarus. It contained another example of type A and was buried after AH 333 = AD 944/5, the year the last dated Abbasid dirham in the hoard was issued.