Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum


Hegira 77 / AD 696–7

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):



Diameter 1.9 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Damascus, Syria.


A gold coin, or dinar, with three lines of calligraphy on both sides, surrounded by a further band of calligraphy around the edge. The inscription in angular kufic script does not mention the name of the caliph or the mint; it gives the date and states the Islamic profession of faith, the Shahada. This coin is particularly important as it belongs to the first issue struck by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik (r. AH 65–87 / AD 685–706) in his coin reform of AH 76 / AD 696. Coins had previously included figurative representations often derived from Byzantine prototypes, but in this new Islamic design the figure has been replaced with a calligraphic inscription, usually from the Qur’an. In addition to the changes in design there was also a new weight standard. Instead of the Byzantine 4.55 g the weight was adjusted to 4.25 g, known as the mithqal. Coinage continued to be minted without figural images almost without exception until the AH 7th/ AD 13th century. The prohibition of the figural is also seen in Umayyad religious buildings, such as the mosaics in the Great Mosque of Damascus (AH 87 / AD 706) that depict only buildings and trees.

View Short Description

How date and origin were established:

The coin is inscribed with the date AH 77 / AD 696–7.

How Object was obtained:

Gift of E. T. Rogers in 1874.

How provenance was established:

The coin was probably minted at the political centre of the Umayyad dynasty, Syria, in the capital Damascus.

Selected bibliography:

Album, S., A Checklist of Islamic Coins (2nd edition), Santa Rosa, 1998, pp.20–21.

Broome, M., A Handbook of Islamic Coins, London, 1985, chapter 1.
Byzantine and Post-Reform Umaiyad Coins, London, 1956, p.84 ff.

Walker, J., A Catalogue of the Muhammadan Coins in the British Museum, Vol. II: Arab-Byzantine and Post-Reform Umaiyad coins, London, 1956, p.84 ff.

Williams (ed.), Money: A History, London, 1997, p.90, fig.135.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Coin" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;ISL;uk;Mus01;1;en&id=coins_and_medals

Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton

Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK1 01

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