Numiscollect have proven themselves not only able to choose a good subject for their collectible coin issues, but also an ability to conceptualise them and bring a fantastic quality finished article to market. We don’t need to tell you how popular the ancient world is with coin producers at present, but that doesn’t mean that everything has to be a variation on the same theme. Archaeology and Symbolism is a fresh look at some of the core beliefs and iconography of some of the worlds great historical empires and religions.
The format chosen is one that takes full advantage of the proprietary CIT/BH Mayer minting technology called Smartminting. This ability to offer ultra high-relief, while maintaining detail and crisp edges has made this probably the premier process in modern numismatics. As you can see from the images below, this series certainly doesn’t lack detail. Each issue is a 65mm wide, 3oz silver coin, which is now available as a 333 unit run of antique finished coins, and a further 99 that have been gilded. All are similarly packaged, and come with a certificate of authenticity, of course.
The first coin remains our favourite because of its subject, rather than any inherent superiority. We don’t doubt that any of the designs to date could be anyone’s favourite, such is the consistent quality. Depicting the awesome Aztec Calendar Stone, discovered in what is now Mexico City, it was a fine choice to show what this series is about. This coin was issued for Cook Islands, and carries an unusual ‘question mark’ motif on the obverse, along with Queen Elizabeth II. The mark is packed with symbols from various ancient civilisations and sits on an almost Japanese Zen garden-like pattern of lines.
The third issue also has this obverse, but the second coin is unusual in being issued for Mongolia. A simpler design, it nevertheless seems to suit the Kalachakra Mandala subject matter very well. That Mandala is again, beautifully realised, as is the latest coin, the Samsara Wheel of Life, which carries a striking amount of detail. Whether you prefer the gilded or the antique finish on your coin, you’re guaranteed to get an awesome piece of numismatic art, although at circa €400, not one for everyone. The fourth coin continuse the issue schedule of two per year, showing its face(s) at the Beijing Coin Expo in November 2019.
One of the most intriguing civilisations of the last millennia, the Aztec Empire wasn’t a particularly long-lasting one. Starting as an alliance of three city states called Mexico-Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan, the Aztecs ruled the area in and around the Valley of Mexico from 1428 until 1521. It wasn’t long after its formation that Tenochtitlan became dominant, and the Aztec Empire was effectively ruled from there. The whole thing was crushed by Hernan Cortes and his group of conquistadores with their native allies. Tenochtitlan is situated in the centre of what is now Mexico City.
In the few years following the defeat of the Aztecs, a large calendar stone was buried in the Zocalo, the main square of the capital. Rediscovered in late 1790, it was mounted to the outside of Mexico City Cathedral, where it remained for the next 95 years. Now residing in the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, this is no trinket and clearly of importance to the Aztecs. Its size alone indicates great significance.
How big is it? At 3.58 metres in diameter, 0.98 metres thick, and weighing almost 22 tonnes, its production must have been difficult, but you certainly couldn’t tell from the exquisite finished article. If it were formed in silver, it would weigh just shy of 104 tonnes – in gold, over 190 tonnes. The surface of the stone is a depiction of the central elements of Mexican cosmology.
The meaning of mandala comes from Sanskrit meaning “circle.” It appears in the Rig Veda as the name of the sections of the work, but is also used in many other civilizations, religions and philosophies. Even though it may be dominated by squares or triangles, a mandala has a concentric structure. Mandalas offer balancing visual elements, symbolizing unity and harmony. The meanings of individual mandalas is usually different and unique to each mandala.
The mandala pattern is used in many traditions. In the Americas, Indians have created medicine wheels and sand mandalas. The circular Aztec calendar was both a timekeeping device and a religious expression of ancient Aztecs. In Asia, the Taoist “yin-yang” symbol represents opposition as well as interdependence. Tibetan mandalas are often highly intricate illustrations of religious significance that are used for meditation. From Buddhist stupas to Muslim mosques and Christian cathedrals, the principle of a structure built around a center is a common theme in architecture.
The Kalachakra Mandala is a circle which is a device for the Buddhist Tantric meditation. It is a visual aid for concentration and introversive meditation leading to the attainment of insights and to activation of forces culminating in “Siddhi” supernatural forces. The Mandala is the graphic representation of this process.
The illustration represents “palace of purity” a magic sphere cleared of spiritual obstacles and unpurified. The square of the “Sacred palace” proper is end used in multiple circles of flame, Vajra, eight centuries (appears only in wrathful deities) lotus, then the inner square to reach to the deity of the Mandala “Shakyamuni Buddha” represented for the crystal.
Saṃsāra in Buddhism, states Jeff Wilson, is the “suffering-laden cycle of life, death, and rebirth, without beginning or end”. Also referred to as the wheel of existence (Bhavacakra), it is often mentioned in Buddhist texts with the term punarbhava (rebirth, re-becoming); the liberation from this cycle of existence, Nirvana, is the foundation and the most important purpose of Buddhism.
Samsara is considered impermanent in Buddhism, just like other Indian religions. Karma drives this impermanent Samsara in Buddhist thought, states Paul Williams, and “short of attaining enlightenment, in each rebirth one is born and dies, to be reborn elsewhere in accordance with the completely impersonal causal nature of one’s own karma; This endless cycle of birth, rebirth, and redeath is Saṃsāra”. The Four Noble Truths, accepted by all Buddhist traditions, are aimed at ending this Samsara-related re-becoming (rebirth) and associated cycles of suffering.
Like Jainism, Buddhism developed its own Samsara theory, that evolved over time the mechanistic details on how the wheel of mundane existence works over the endless cycles of rebirth and redeath. In early Buddhist traditions, Saṃsāra cosmology consisted of five realms through which wheel of existence recycled. This included hells (niraya), hungry ghosts (pretas), animals (tiryak), humans (manushya), and gods (devas, heavenly). In latter traditions, this list grew to a list of six realms of rebirth, adding demi-gods (asuras). The “hungry ghost, heavenly, hellish realms” respectively formulate the ritual, literary and moral spheres of many contemporary Buddhist traditions.
The Saṃsāra concept, in Buddhism, envisions that these six realms are interconnected, and everyone cycles life after life, and death is just a state for an afterlife, through these realms, because of a combination of ignorance, desires and purposeful karma, or ethical and unethical actions. Nirvana is typically described as the freedom from rebirth and the only alternative to suffering of Samsara, in Buddhism. However, the Buddhist texts developed a more comprehensive theory of rebirth, states Steven Collins, from fears of redeath, called amata (death-free), a state which is considered synonymous with nirvana. (Source: Wikipedia)
The sculptured Dendera zodiac is a widely known Egyptian bas-relief from the ceiling of the pronaos (or portico) of a chapel dedicated to Osiris in the Hathor temple at Dendera, containing images of Taurus (the bull) and Libra (the scales). This chapel was begun in the late Ptolemaic period; its pronaos was added by the emperor Tiberius. This led Jean-François Champollion to date the relief to the Greco-Roman period, but most of his contemporaries believed it to be of the New Kingdom. The relief, which John H. Rogers characterised as “the only complete map that we have of an ancient sky”, has been conjectured to represent the basis on which later astronomy systems were based. It is now on display at the Musée du Louvre, Paris.
The zodiac is a planisphere or map of the stars on a plane projection, showing the 12 constellations of the zodiacal band forming 36 decans of ten days each, and the planets. These decans are groups of first-magnitude stars. These were used in the ancient Egyptian calendar, which was based on lunar cycles of around 30 days and on the heliacal rising of the star Sothis (Sirius). Its representation of the zodiac in circular form is unique in ancient Egyptian art. More typical are the rectangular zodiacs which decorate the same temple’s pronaos.
The celestial arch is represented by a disc held up by four pillars of the sky in the form of women, between which are inserted falcon-headed spirits. On the first ring 36 spirits represent the 360 days of the Egyptian year. On an inner circle, one finds constellations, showing the signs of the zodiac. Some of these are represented in the same Greco-Roman iconographic forms as their familiar counterparts (e.g. the Ram, Taurus, Scorpio, and Capricorn, albeit most in odd orientations in comparison to the conventions of ancient Greece and later Arabic-Western developments), whilst others are shown in a more Egyptian form: Aquarius is represented as the flood god Hapy, holding two vases which gush water. Rogers noted the similarities of unfamiliar iconology with the three surviving tablets of a Seleucid zodiac and both relating to kudurru, “boundary-stone” representations: in short, Rogers sees the Dendera zodiac as “a complete copy of the Mesopotamian zodiac”.
|ARCHAEOLOGY & SYMBOLISM
|DENOMINATION||$20 Cook Islands or 2,000 Togrog (Mongolia)||$20 Cook Islands or 2,000 Togrog (Mongolia)|
|COMPOSITION||0.999 silver||0.999 silver|
|WEIGHT||93.3 grams||93.3 grams|
|DIMENSIONS||65.0 mm||65.0 mm|
|BOX / C.O.A.||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes|