More than 12,000 iron coins dating from the Northern Song (北宋 959-1126) have been recovered from ruins located in Shanxi Province (山西省) following 20 months of excavation and research, according to a report by the Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology (山西省考古研究所) published January 26, 2015 by the Shanxi News Network (山西新闻网).
The archaeological site, situated on a high precipice, is located at Jiangzhou (绛州) which was the historical name of what is now Xinjiang County (新绛县). China’s most famous percussion ensemble, the Jiangzhou Drum Troupe (绛州鼓乐), derives its name from this ancient prefecture.
The iron coins were severely corroded. After treating the coins for rust, the archaeologists have determined that most of the coins are from the middle to late Northern Song Dynasty.
The coins are from six reign periods (nian hao 年号) as follows:
- xi ning tong bao (熙宁通宝) cast beginning in 1068 during the reign of Emperor Shenzong (宋神宗)
- yuan you tong bao (元祐通宝) cast beginning in 1086 during the reign of Emperor Zhezong (宋哲宗)
- shao sheng yuan bao (绍圣元宝) cast beginning in 1094 also during the reign of Emperor Zhezong
- chong ning tong bao (崇宁通宝) cast beginning in 1102 during the reign of Emperor Huizong (宋徽宗)
- da guan tong bao (大观通宝) cast beginning in 1107 during the reign of Emperor Huizong
- zheng he tong bao (政和通宝) cast beginning in 1111 during the reign of Emperor Huizong
Of these six types of coins, the zheng he tong bao (政和通宝) were found in the largest number.
According to experts, China first began using coins made of iron at the beginning of the Western Han (西汉 206 BC – 9 AD). During the years 1955-1959, iron “ban liang” (铁半两) coins dating to the Western Han were unearthed from tombs in Hengyang (衡阳) and Changsha (长沙), Hunan Province (湖南省).
The issuance of iron coins reached its peak during the Northern Song.
The article includes an image (shown above) that displays rubbings of some of the coins.
From left to right, the rubbings (拓片) are:
- xi ning tong bao (熙宁通宝) written in regular script (楷书)
- yuan you tong bao (元祐通宝) written in seal script (篆书)
- shao sheng yuan bao (绍圣元宝) written in seal script
- shao sheng yuan bao (绍圣元宝) written in running script (行书)
- chong ning tong bao (崇宁通宝) written in Slender Gold script (瘦金书)
- da guan tong bao (大观通宝) written in Slender Gold script
- zheng he tong bao (政和通宝) written in Li script (隶书)
- zheng he tong bao (政和通宝) written in seal script
At the bottom left of the image is an earthenware vessel that contained some of the coins.
Besides the coin, several furnaces (炉灶) and crucibles (坩埚) were unearthed at the site. One of the furnaces is shown at the bottom middle. A crucible can be seen at the bottom right.
Whether or not the furnaces and crucibles are related to the large number of iron coins discovered is a question the archaeologists say will require further study.
Regarding major archaeological discoveries of huge quantities of Song Dynasty iron coins, please also see “Tons of Song Dynasty Iron Coins Discovered” and “Mystery Surrounding 100 Tons of Song Dynasty Iron Coins“.