• latw-23-1
    Electrum twenty-fourth stater with lion’s paw. Obverse. (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)
  • latw-23-2
    Electrum twenty-fourth stater with lion’s paw. Reverse. (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

Electrum Twenty-Fourth Stater with Lion’s Paw

Ca. 630-615 BC (the terminus ante quem of ca. 615 BC is certain from the stratigraphic context), Lydian
Selcuk, Ephesus Museum, 99/43/94
Inventory No.
Object Type
Coin Denomination
Twenty-fourth stater
Coin Mint
Electrum coin of one twenty-fourth stater weight (Ephesus Excavations Inventory ART 94/K277). Obverse: four-clawed lion’s paw. Reverse: single punch. Weight: 0.56 g.
Coins with different variations of a lion’s paw on the obverse are common at the Artemision at Ephesus (32 of the 93 coins found by the British excavation, for instance) and rather rare outside it. Some lion’s paw coins were struck with the same reverse punches as coins bearing the name WALWET, and so are very likely Lydian in origin; Karwiese (Karwiese 1995, 133–145) suggests that they were struck locally at or near Ephesus, using punches brought from the Sardian mint. U. Wartenberg (Wartenberg 1997, 264–265) disputed Karwiese’s localization of the lion’s paw series at Ephesus, pointing out that only 32 out of 103 examples listed by him were found verifiably at the site and therefore Karwiese’s argumentation based on the finding spot only is “methodologically doubtful.” The usage of identical reverse punches in the Lydian WALWET series is, on the contrary, a “very convincing proof of the Lydian provenance of the lion’s paw series.”

Although tiny, weighing only about half a gram, such coins were valuable in antiquity; this was probably worth about one sheep or a bushel of grain. A still smaller denomination, one forty-eighth of a stater, was also minted.

From the Artemision at Ephesus, found near the east wall of the sekos of Croesus’ temple in a sacrificial deposit, which was laid down in a dried-out, although occasionally flooded river bed during the last third of the seventh century BC. The sterile fine sand washed in by the overflowing river separated five consecutive layers of remains of cultic meals, consisting mostly of pottery, mainly drinking vessels, and animal bones; it also contained small votives, some of them made of gold (Pülz 2009, 216, cat. no. 6, 224–225 cat. no. 38–41, pl. 3, colorpl. 3, 6; these gold objects as well as the fragmentary “Ephesian Ware” stemmed dish No. 115 were found in a higher and therefore slightly later stratum of this deposit). The twenty-fourth stater No. 23 was found in the deepest and earliest layers of this sacrificial deposit (Kerschner 1997, 100, 181, 226, fig. 2, 3:4.5, “Opferschichten G, F, E”). These could not be distinguished from one another at this spot, where they slope slightly upwards contiguous to a retaining wall that bordered the semi-dry river bed (Kerschner 1997, fig. 8). Unlike in the river bed itself, the inundations did not deposit fine-grained sand between the sacrificial layers at its western fringe. Nevertheless, this important closed context provides a narrow timeframe for its deposition, which, according to the pottery finds, must have taken place between ca. 630-615 BC (Kerschner 1997, 181).

No. 23 belongs to Karwiese’s type 5 in his lion’s paw series (Karwiese 1995, 137, no. 74). The pottery evidence had not yet been completely studied, however, when this work was published. Karwiese dated this type to “ca. 575 until shortly after 560 (?)” (Karwiese 1995, 142), but his arguments were based on speculative historical considerations rather than archaeological evidence (“Realhistorisch wäre daraus zu interpretieren...;” cf. Wartenberg 1997, 264: “Dies ist mehr Stammtischgerede als Wissenschaft”). After the publication of the stratigraphic and ceramic evidence (Kerschner 1997), Karwiese (Karwiese 2001, 103) accepted the date defined by the context. Seven years later, however, he rejected it, without adducing new reasons (Karwiese 2008a, 140). He claims that the context “provides only a terminus post quem.” This is definitely incorrect, since the layers above the “Opferschichten G, F, E” included four closed deposits, all dating prior to 600 BC. Thus, from the stratigraphic sequence as a whole, an indisputable terminus ante quem of ca. 615 BC for the lowest strata G, F and E can be established, providing an important benchmark for the chronology of early electrum coinage.

Kroll, “Coins of Sardis”
Karwiese 1995, 137 no. 74; Karwiese 2008a, 140. On the deposit: Kerschner 1997, 100, 181, 226, fig. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8.