Ariana Antiqua: A Descriptive Account of the Antiquities and Coins of Afghanistan


Ariana Antiqua is an important early scholarly treatment of ancient coins and other antiquities discovered in Afghanistan and adjacent regions of present-day Pakistan. Much of the work focuses on the discoveries of Charles Masson (1800‒53), a British traveler and explorer who in the 1830s, working in the vicinity of Kabul and Peshawar, amassed a collection of more than 80,000 silver, gold, and bronze coins while in the service of the East India Company. The book was compiled and for the most part written by H.H. Wilson, professor of Sanskrit at Oxford. Chapter one is an account of numismatic and antiquarian research in Afghanistan up to the late 1830s. Chapter two is a narrative by Masson about his study of topes (dome-shaped monuments used as Buddhist or Jainist reliquaries or commemorative shrines, more generally known as stupas) and sepulchral monuments in Afghanistan. Chapter three is a study of references to “Ariana,” the name that ancient Greek authors, such as Eratosthenes and Strabo, gave to Afghanistan. Chapter four is a treatment of all of the dynasties that ruled Afghanistan from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC to the first Islamic invasion of India in the 12th century.  The book contains plates with illustrations of topes, antiquities, and coins and a reconstruction of the Arianian alphabet, as well as a large foldout “Map of Ariana Antiqua: The Countries between Persia and India as Known to the Ancients with the Marches of Alexander,” with Greek place-names supplied by Wilson.

Last updated: September 30, 2016