• latw-20-1
    Electrum twelfth-stater with Lydian inscription “WALWET” Obverse. (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)
  • latw-20-2
    Electrum twelfth-stater with Lydian inscription “WALWET” Reverse. (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

Electrum Twelfth-Stater with Lydian Inscription “walwet”

Ca. 630-575 BC, Lydian
Istanbul, Archaeological Museum, 5974
Inventory No.
Object Type
Coin Denomination
Twelfth stater
Coin Mint
Inscription language
Inscription Text
Inscription Translation
Inscription Comment
= Alyattes?
Electrum coin of twelfth-stater weight. Obverse: Roaring lion head facing right. Along right side of coin, three Lydian letters, “...WET.” Reverse: single punch. Diameter 0.007; weight 1.19 g.
Coins of this type, with inscription of six letters between confronting lion’s heads, are known from about 155 examples (Karwiese 2008a, 137). The reading of the letters and the meaning of the word are debated; the most likely is that the inscription is to be read “WALWET,” and that Walwet was the Lydian name of king Alyattes (see Wallace 2006; for an alternative interpretation: Furtwängler 1986, 161–162). Other individuals besides kings, however, placed their names on Lydian coins: for instance, Kuka (Gyges, but not the famous one) on No. 21, and ...]L?ATE[... on No. 22.

This is the single coin with this inscription from the “Central Basis” of the Artemision at Ephesus, a structure beneath the naiskos in the open sekos (courtyard) of the colossal Ionic temple partly financed by Croesus (on the remains and reconstruction of the temple: Ohnesorg 2007). In 1904–1905, the British team excavated a rectangular structure, measuring 4.34 x 2.86 m, built of small blocks of green schist, and predating the temple of Croesus (Hogarth et al 1908, 53–55, 59, fig. 13–14, 16–18, 21, atlas 1–2, cf. Bammer 1991a, fig. 24; Weissl 2002, 315–321, fig. 1–6, 14; Weissl 2005, 363–364, fig. 1–2). Hogarth and Henderson called it the “earlier Basis” and interpreted it as “Temple A,” the oldest cult building for Artemis. It is situated at the intersection of the longitudinal and lateral axes of the Archaic sekos (cf. Ohnesorg 2007, pl. 36–37). “... the green schist blocks being only roughly shaped at the back. The rectangle, therefore, was intended to be filled in with a solid core, bonded with the outer casing ... coeval with the walls ... The filling of the interior ... was composed of fragments of laminated yellow limestone ... roughly bedded on layers of argillaceous sand, course by course ... the objects in metal and other materials [were found] imbedded between its slabs ...” (Hogarth et al 1908, 54-55). The British team discovered “about 1,000 objects in all, large and small, in this filling” (D. G. Hogarth in Hogarth et al 1908, 232), which was called “foundation deposit,” including 24 electrum coins (including this one), and hundreds of artifacts, mostly jewelry, made of gold, electrum (including the earring No. 139), silver, ivory, amber, and other luxury materials; one of the largest and most important collections of early coinage and precious dedications of this period, deliberately deposited as offerings to the Goddess. Many further items were found in the vicinity of the Basis, including five more coins bearing the inscription WALWET.

The exact chronology of these finds is still debated, as are the date, function and shape of the “Central Basis.” When A. Bammer resumed the excavations within the sekos of Croesus’ temple in 1987, he found that Hogarth had not reached the foot of the “Central Basis” and the adjacent structures, and that the earliest building was an astonishingly well preserved peripteral temple (Bammer 1988c; Bammer 1990; Bammer 1991a; Bammer 2005; for a different interpretation of the building phases see Weissl 2002, 321–327, fig. 6–7, 11, 14). This early Archaic peripteros was erected between 680–650 BC, as worked out by M. Kerschner and M. Weissl based on the evidence of the stratigraphy and the pottery finds (Weissl 2002, 321–325) – rather than in the eighth century BC, as had been originally proposed by the excavator (Bammer 1988c, 21; Bammer 1990, 141–142, 156; Bammer 1991a, 73, 83, fig. 21; Bammer 2005, 213–214). Re-excavating Hogarth’s “Central Basis,” Bammer came upon only the western wall of the rectangular basis, and he did not believe that the other three sides had ever existed, although they were explicitly described by Hogarth et al 1908, 54 and illustrated in the ground plan (Hogarth et al 1908, atlas 2). Bammer concluded “that Hogarth’s basic assumption was not correct... It quickly became clear that the evidence would not support the idea of a rectangular ‘basis A’ (Bammer 1990, 137–138; cf. already: Bammer 1988c, 8–9). He interpreted the preserved western wall of green schist blocks as a “transverse wall” “walling off ... the eastern part of the cella ... of the peripteros” and forming a foundation socle for the naiskos of the Croesus’ temple in the sixth century BC (Bammer 1990, 142, fig. 14; cf. Bammer 1988c, 9). Furthermore, Bammer (Bammer 1988c, 24) denied even the existence of a “foundation deposit.”

Weissl 2002 315–321, fig. 1–6, 11, 14; Weissl 2005) was able to demonstrate by means of Hogarth’s documentation that, at the time of the first excavation of the “Central Basis” in 1904–1905, a rectangular structure consisting of four schist walls had actually existed. The north, east and south walls, however, were poorly preserved, and were partially removed during excavation (D. G. Hogarth in: Hogarth et al 1908, 36). Thus, Bammer found only a few schist blocks remaining of the original east wall, but no longer in situ (Bammer 1988c, fig. 5; Bammer 2005, fig. 14). In addition, Weissl pointed out that the rectangular schist basis had been deliberately filled in with precious objects, the so-called “foundation deposit,” described by Hogarth. Subsequently, Bammer 2005, 205–212, 214, fig. 13), too, conceded the existence of the rectangular basis (calling it “Kubus”), albeit still casting doubts about it.

Whereas the existence of a “foundation deposit” in the “earlier basis” is widely accepted today, its date is still under discussion, ranging between the first half of the seventh and the first half of the sixth century BC (for a synopsis of the different dates and arguments see Stingl 2000/2001, 41–43; Weissl 2005). The high chronology (D. G. Hogarth in: Hogarth et al 1908, 239–240, 245; Weidauer 1975, 73–77; Kagan 1982, 348–353, 359) is mainly based on the assumption that the “Central Basis” was destroyed by the Cimmerians. There is, however, no archaeological evidence for a violent destruction of the rectangular basis, nor were weapons of nomadic type found (Ivantchik 2001, 71–72). Furthermore, the ancient Greek sources are ambiguous about the activities of the Cimmerians at Ephesus. Thus, there is no historical argument in favor of a date in the early seventh century BC. The main advocates of a deposition date in the first half of the sixth century BC explain their opinion either by the style of three small electrum figurines (Jacobsthal 1951, 91; Robinson 1951, 156) or by the architectural context (Bammer 1988c, 9–10; Bammer 1991a, 83). Recently, Bammer ( Bammer 2005, 211) proposed a date “between the last decades of the seventh century BC and the first decades of the sixth century BC”), whereas Weissl (Weissl 2005, 370) argued in support of a deposition “in the third quarter of the seventh century BC.”

New evidence has been provided by the analysis of the pottery finds predating the “foundation deposit” (Kerschner 2005, 134–142, fig. 9–12). The deposit, consisting of several layers of argillaceous sand with precious small objects alternating with fragments of laminated yellow limestone, had been almost completely excavated by D. G. Hogarth. Immediately beneath the backfill of Hogarth’s trench, A. Bammer found in 1987 a silty layer (Bammer 1988c, 2, 7 [“Lehmschicht”]; cf. Kerschner 2005, 135–137, fig. 9 “Lehmschicht.” Originally, Bammer labeled this layer “Lehmschicht,” as it is described in the excavation diary; later, however, he changed the name of the same stratum into “Sandschicht” or “Schwemmschicht,” which caused terminological confusion; cf. Kerschner 2005, 136, footnote 67), which covered the floor of the early Archaic peripteros. It contained another important deposit of precious finds, the so-called “hoard,” including jewelry made mostly of bronze, but also of gold and silver, faience objects, ivories and 493 amber pendants (Bammer 1988c, 22–27, fig. 25–32; Kerschner 2005, 137-138, fig. 8–9). This layer cannot have been caused a heavy inundation, as Bammer proposed (Bammer 2004, 70, fig. 3; Bammer 2007, 5), since these small and lightweight objects were all found close together rather than widely distributed by flowing water (Kerschner 2005, fig. 8). The “hoard” was obviously buried deliberately on the floor of the cella of the peripteros, when this early Archaic temple was abandoned. The latest pottery fragments from this silty layer, among them some Early Corinthian pieces, provide a date around 600 BC for the final abandonment of the early Archaic peripteros and the deposition of the “hoard” (Kerschner 2005, 138–140, fig. 12). This is, at the same time, a terminus post quem for the “foundation deposit” within the rectangular schist base built on top of it. There is, however, a possibility that the refill of Hogarth’s trench could not be separated precisely enough during the excavation of 1987, so that it cannot be completely excluded that the pottery fragments dating to the end of the seventh century BC (Kerschner 2005, fig. 12c–d) belong rather to the refill (M. Weissl, personal communication). If this is the case, a higher closing date of the “foundation deposit” might be conceivable.

In addition to coins from the “foundation deposit,” more recent discoveries, such as coins Nos. 21, 22, and 23, from better-documented excavations, are helping to clarify the date of the invention of coinage by the Lydians.

Kroll, “Coins of Sardis”
Head in Hogarth et al 1908, 74, 83 no. 43, 91–92; Robinson 1951, 163, 166 no. 14 pl. 38; Weidauer 1975, no. 112; cf. Kagan 1982; Furtwängler 1986, 161; Karwiese 1991, 1995, 2001, 2008. On the ‘foundation deposit’: Hogarth et al 1908, 53–55, 59, fig. 13–14. 16–18. 21, atlas 1–2; D. G. Hogarth in Hogarth et al 1908, 232–246; Head in Hogarth et al 1908, 74; Jacobsthal 1951; Robinson 1951, 158–164; recent publications with further bibliography: Bammer 1988c; Stingl 2000/2001, 41–44; Weissl 2002, 315–321, fig. 1–6, 11, 14; Bammer 2004, 70–72; Kerschner 2005, 134–140, fig. 9–12; Bammer 2005, 205–212, fig. 4. 13, photo 11–14; Weissl 2005; Bammer 2007, 5, fig. 2–4, 9.