ARCHAEOLOGY & SYMBOLISM (2018-) by Numiscollect
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 world’s 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 65 mm 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 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.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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”. (Source: Wikipedia)
Vasudhāra, whose name means “stream of gems” in Sanskrit, is the Buddhist bodhisattva of wealth, prosperity, and abundance. She is popular in many Buddhist countries and is a subject in Buddhist legends and art. Originally an Indian bodhisattva, her popularity has spread to southern Buddhist countries. Her popularity, however, peaks in Nepal where she has a strong following among the Buddhist Newars of the Kathmandu Valley and is thus a central figure in Newar Buddhism. She is named Shiskar Apa in Lahul and Spiti. She is comparable to the Earth goddesses Phra Mae Thorani in Theravada and Tai folk religion and Bhūmidevī and Pṛthvī in Hinduism. Her short mantra is Oṃ Vasudhāri Svāhā.
Vasudhara is particularly popular in Nepali Buddhism among the Buddhist Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. In this region she is a common household deity. This is known from the countless number of bronzes and paintings found representing her. These images are small in size, typically 18 cm or smaller. Because of their small size it is known that these images were primarily for private use, namely household veneration of the goddess. Additionally, there is a cult dedicated to her worship followed by the Buddhist Newars. Followers of this cult believe that her worship brings wealth and stability. Despite the strong following of this cult by the Buddhist Newars, unfortunately, it is now in decline.
As the Bodhisattva of abundance and prosperity, her popularity in this region is due to the predominance of agriculture and trade essential to the economy of the Kathmandu Valley. The Newars believe that her veneration will generally result in good fortune.
One of the earliest Nepalese representations of Vasudhara is a pauhba (textile art depicting Hindu and Buddhist images on course cotton), dating back to 1015 C.E. This pauhba is known as the Mandala of Vasudhara. The goddess is the central image of this mandala, which depicts scenes of dedication, ritual initiation, festive music, and dance associated with her worship. Its purpose is didactic (to teach). The mandala teaches the importance of worshipping Vasudhara primarily through the narrative of a non-believer whom she converted to belief. (Source: Wikipedia)
The myth of Coyolxauhqui’s demise at the hands of Huitzilopochtli was commemorated in a large stone disk, known as the Great Coyolxauhqui Stone, which was excavated at the base of the Templo Mayor, Tenochtitlan. It depicts in high relief the dismembered and decapitated corpse of Coyolxauhqui and dates to c. 1473 CE during the reign of Axayacatl. The goddess wears only a warrior’s belt with skull, a headdress with eagle down feathers, and a bell on her cheek.
The Templo Mayor pyramid was actually a twin shrine to the rain god Tlaloc and the war god Huitzilopochtli. A double staircase climbed the temple, and the disk was placed, significantly, at the base of the steps leading to Huitzilpochtli’s shrine. It was atop this temple that humans were sacrificed and their bodies dismembered and tossed down the steps to land at the base, just as in the myth on Snake Mountain.
Besides reminding of the importance of Huitzilopochtli, the stone was also a stark warning to the enemies of the Aztecs who saw themselves as the victorious warrior Huitzilopochtli. Defeated warriors led up the steps of the Temple Mayor for the ultimate sacrifice would have been reminded that they were soon to be the equivalent of the defeated Coyolxauhqui.
The 3.4 m (10.5 ft) diameter stone was re-discovered in 1978 CE when workers were excavating the basement of a bookstore in downtown Mexico City. In condensing a three-dimensional scene onto a two-dimensional plain, it is one of the great masterpieces of Aztec art and now resides in the Museo del Templo Mayor in the city in which it was discovered.
Cartwright, Mark. “Coyolxauhqui.” World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 11 Feb 2016. Web. 15 Apr 2021.
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was a kingdom in Central Asia. It lasted from approximate the mid-3rd century BC until the 1st century BC. Its most important cities were Ai-Khanoum and Bactria, founded by Alexander the Great. Both cities were located on important trade routes towards Asia, both through lowlands and the mountains. The area flourished and much sophisticated temples, buildings and artefacts were made. One, the Bactrian Disk, was found in Ai-Khanoum.
The Bactrian Disk depicts and images of the goddess Cybele in her chariot drawn by lions towards a sacrifice. She was believed to be the mother of the mountains. Her roots are from the area of the Bactrian Kingdom, from where Greek explorers brought her stories back and incorporated it into Greek culture. The disc or plaque is from the 2nd century BC, measures 25 cm in diameter and is partially gilded. The disk is now in the national museum in Kabul.
Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings located in Egypt. The tomb is renowned for the number of valuable antiquities it contained. Tutankhamun’s tomb has been raided at least twice since his mummification; this is indicated by the outermost doors of the tomb being unsealed.
Tutankhamun, also referred to as King Tut was the last Pharaoh in his family to rule during the 18th Dynasty. He took the throne at only eight (or nine) years. Tutankhamun married to Ankhesenamun, his parental half-sister. In his reign, Tutankhamun restored the Ancient Egyptian religion which had previously been dissolved by his father. However, despite his accomplishments, Tutankhamun was severely disabled and is theorized to have a multitude of different medical conditions. The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, along with the Mask has been one of the biggest and most important discoveries regarding the ancient Egyptians.
The reverse of the coin depicts the Tutankhamun’s Mask in ultra high relief in the middle. Around the mask are the various hieroglyphs from the walls of Tutankhamun’s Tomb. There are also sculptures which are paintings of the walls turned into 3D. On the edge are the inscriptions: “Tutankhamun’s Tomb 1922” (the name) and “2022” (the year of issue). 1922 is the year of the Tomb’s discovery. It has ultra-high relief and interesting small details all found in the tomb.
Vairochana (also Vairocana) is called the Sun Buddha (in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism teachings) and is the Primoridial Buddha and sits in the central place of the Five Wisdom Buddhas mandala surrounded by the four other Wisdom Buddhas who sit at the cardinal points. The Five Wisdom Buddhas arose during the Mahayana development in India and were taken up by Tantric Buddhism.
Vairocana Buddha is first introduced in the Brahmajala Sutra: Now, I, Vairocana Buddha am sitting atop a lotus pedestal; On a thousand flowers surrounding me are a thousand Sakyamuni Buddhas. Each flower supports a hundred million worlds; in each world a Sakyamuni Buddha appears. All are seated beneath a Bodhi-tree, all simultaneously attain Buddhahood. All these innumerable Buddhas have Vairocana as their original body.
The reverse of the coin depicts the Mandala of Tattvasamgraha Tantra, with Buddhist Vairochana in the center and inscription: “Vairochana Buddha – Tattvasamgraha Tantra” (the name) and “2022” (the year of issue). It has ultra-high relief and interesting small details of the original Mandala of Vairochana.
The Antikythera mechanism is an Ancient Greek hand-powered orrery, described as the oldest known example of an analogue computer used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses decades in advance. It could also be used to track the four-year cycle of athletic games which was similar to an Olympiad, the cycle of the ancient Olympic Games. This artefact was among wreckage retrieved from a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera in 1901.
On 17 May 1902, it was identified as containing a gear. The device was found as one lump, later separated into three fragments, which are now divided into 82 separate fragments after conservation efforts. Four of them contain gears, the largest 13 cm in diameter, which originally had 223 teeth. In 2008, Cardiff University used modern computer x-ray tomography and high resolution surface scanning to image inside fragments. This suggests that it had 37 meshing bronze gears enabling it to follow the movements of the Moon and the Sun through the zodiac, to predict eclipses and to model the irregular orbit of the Moon, where the Moon’s velocity is higher in its perigee than in its apogee. This motion was studied in the 2nd century BC by astronomer Hipparchus of Rhodes, and it is speculated that he may have been consulted in the machine’s construction. There is speculation that a portion of the mechanism is missing, and it also calculated the positions of the five classical planets.
The instrument is believed to have been designed and constructed by Greek scientists and has been variously dated between 87 BC and 205 BC. It must have been constructed before the shipwreck, approximately 70–60 BC. In 2022 researchers proposed that the initial calibration date of the machine (not its actual date of construction) could have been 23 December 178 BC. Other experts propose 204 BC as a more likely calibration date. Machines with similar complexity did not appear again until the astronomical clocks of Richard of Wallingford and Giovanni de’ Dondi in the fourteenth century. (Source: Wikipedia)
|ARCHAEOLOGY & SYMBOLISM
|DENOMINATION||$20 Cook Islands or 2,000 Togrog (Mongolia)||$20 Cook Islands or 2,000 Togrog (Mongolia)||$20 Cook Islands or 2,000 Togrog (Mongolia)|
|COMPOSITION||0.999 silver||0.999 silver||0.999 silver|
|WEIGHT||93.3 grams||93.3 grams||93.3 grams|
|DIMENSIONS||65.0 mm||65.0 mm||65.0 mm|
|FINISH||Antique silk||Antique, colour||Gilded|
|MINTAGE||Variable (max 333)||Variable (max 111)||Variable (max 111)|
|BOX / C.O.A.||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes|
I see you have listed the Kalachakra Mandala issue as a 2018 release ?