136 TIlE IrNDlIAN EMAPIRE [CHAP.
are altogether blank, more frequently they are blank on the
reverse only, and, more frequently still, the reverse is impressed
with one or two small marks, struck by a punch. The obverse
commonly exhibits many such marks, impressed by separate
punches at different times. This ancient coinage is therefore
generally described by numismatists as 'punch-marked.' The
Laws of Alanu denote coins of this kind as puranas, or 'eld-
lings,' and Southern writers call them sa/ldkds, or 'dominoes.'
The metal is usually impure silver, containing about 20 per
cent. of alloy. The silver was evidently prepared as a plate,
which was then cut up into strips from which the bits were
divided. Silver was never produced to any considerable extent
in India, but has always been, as it still is, one of the chief
items in the list of imports. Silver coins, consequently, cannot
have come into use until silver was freely imported, and if that
metal was not available before 700 B.c. no silver coins can
be of earlier date. Mr. Kennedy's suggestion that the punch-
marked coins were copied from Babylonian originals after the
opening of maritime trade in the seventh century B-c. has
much to recommend it, although it cannot be regarded as
The most archaic-looking coins known are punch-marked
copper pieces, found at extremely ancient sites near Benares.
They are much more elongated in form than the silver pieces,
and seem to have been cut from a bar and struck to a different
scale of weights. These rare copper pieces are possibly older
than any silver coin, and may be a memento of Babylonian
trade by overland routes 1.
The marks on the punch-marked coins, whether silver or
copper, are extremely numerous and varied. They comprise
rude outlines of men, animals, trees, the sun, and a variety of
miscellaneous objects. Mir. Theobald has catalogued about
300 of these devices`% Legends are always absent. Punch-
marked coins of roughly circular shape occasionally occur,
and are probably a later development of the rectangular bits.
The silver coins, of which the best specimens weigh about
55 grains or 32 grammes, are so adjusted in weight as to be
the approximate equivalent of thirty-two rate seeds (Abrus
fprecatorius). The rafl may be rated as averaging about
l At Bairint, a very ancient site in Benares District, Carlleyle found
twenty of these copper pieces, but only four silver punch-marked coins
(Arch. S. Rep., xxii, II4). See also J. A. S. B., I897, pt. i, p. 298, pl.
2J. A. S. B., 189o, pt. i, pl. viii-xi.