The 3,000+ year old Chinese Shu culture launches a new coin series looking at the history of Latitude 30 civilisations

Stretching back in time deeper than the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, and the Emperors, is the ancient Shu Kingdom. While much of it is still shrouded in mystery, the 1986 discovery of a major site in Sanxingdui (‘Three Star Mound’) in modern Sichuan Province brought to light some amazing artifacts, the best and most iconic of which are probably the bronze head sculptures.

It wasn’t just heads, as the site also contained the oldest life-sized human sculpture ever found (2.6m tall) and a 4m high bronze tree, but the head sculptures in particular, displayed an artistic style not seen in China before. Dozens of these bronze heads were uncovered, rarely with gold foil masks attached, and exhibiting a striking style. Large angular eyes, some with pupils protruding from them, and big ears were prevalent, as were fragments of black and vermillion paint. They must have been extraordinary things when first made.

Sanxingdui is another fine subject for a coin, but the series is actually more broadly focused than that. Latitude 30° in the Northern Hemisphere is a region home to a remarkable number of ancient civilisations and that is what this series will highlight. From the obverse of the coin you can see the Great Pyramids of Giza from Ancient Egypt, and the stepped pyramids of MesoAmerica, but there are others.

This first coin looks superb. I wasn’t sure what it was meant to be on first viewing, but then I had no idea what about the finds at Sanxingdui. Now I do, it’s easy to see the inspiration, and just what a terrific choice of subject it is. It never ceases to amaze at how numismatics can inspire the pursuit of knowledge. The reproduction of a mask seems not to be of a specific example, but of the find as a whole, with the mix of antiqued and gilded finishes working great together. It’s a striking piece and very distinctive.

The obverse carries a simplified map of the Northern Hemisphere with some small icons representing the sites of ancient civilisations, of there are four, including this one. Egypt, Mesoamerica, and what looks to be the Indus Valley. The effigy of QEII is ring-fenced in its own area, along with the issue inscriptions.

The two ounce 0.999 silver coin is presented in a floating frame for easy display, and has a mintage capped at 500 pieces. It’s from a Chinese producer (World Coin Appreciation, we believe), who are relatively new, but have a few releases behind them. As we said, this looks to be a fine release, certainly in terms of subject and appearance and a few dealers are stocking it at around the €220 mark. It should ship late next month. It will be interesting to see what they do with the equally distinctive Egyptian and Aztec cultures, given both are also well known for their sculpted heads.

COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 62.2 grams
DIMENSIONS 60.0 x 38.0 mm
FINISH Antique
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article “SANXINGDUI“, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0

Our Featured Image based on image by momo, Gold Mask (黄金面罩), modified by by MW, CC BY 2.0 and image Tyg728, 青铜人面具, modified by by MW, CC BY-SA 4.0