Archaeologists have discovered a 2,600-year-old coin mint in the eastern Henan province of China. The archaeologists believe that it could be the oldest-known coin mint. It was uncovered during the excavation of the ancient Chinese city of Guanzhuang located 12 kilometres south of the Yellow River. Guanzhuang, believed to be established in 800 B.C., has been excavated since 2011 and its layout consists of moated and two-walled enclosures.
The excavators found small shovel-shaped bronze coins. The researchers found the mint operated between 640 B.C. and 550 B.C. Currently, the Lydian Lion coins, found in Turkey, are believed to be the earliest coins dating back to about 575 B.C. and 550 B.C. Hao Zhao, the lead author of the research and an archaeologist at Zhengzhou University, told National Geographic that the Guanzhuang mint“is currently the world’s oldest-known securely dated minting site.”
According to Zhao, the workshop of the city opened in 700 B.C., about 100 years later than the city’s establishment. The foundry produced weapons, tools and ritual vessels. Some 150 years later, the minting of coins began outside the city’s southern gate.
Researchers found a coin in near-perfect condition, shaped like a spade, less than 6 inches in length and about 2.5 inches in width. The weight of the bronze coin was 27 grams, a little less than the weight of four 10-rupee coins. Other than two coins, the researchers also found clay moulds that were used to cast the coins.
According to the archaeologists, the interesting thing about this discovery is that the coins are found with their complete context, that is in a mine, with stuff that can be accurately dated. Other than that, their proximity from the presumed location of the official city administration indicates their recognition by the local government. Usually, ancient coins are discovered buried and separated from the context they are used in and it is hard for the archaeologists to conclusively prove their origin, but this case is remarkable, say archaeologists. The findings were published on August 6 in Antiquity.