Coins and The Looting of Hecatomnus' Tomb

This is one of those posts that I'm going to explain step by step, as it will make my thought process clearer.

I've been blogging about the Tomb of Hecatomnus since its discovery at Mylasa was announced this summer (click on the tag Hecatomnus to see the stories).

In May 2012 I'm speaking at a conference in Copenhagen about the tombs of kings and ruler cult before Alexander the Great with emphasis on finds in Caria and at Vergina. I studied under Geoffrey Waywell, so have been quite well versed with archaeological research in Caria since I was an undergrad.

I'm pretending to write a book about warrior queens in antiquity (a draft will go to my agent one day).

So I've also been looking at the Vergina material, particularly Tomb II, as it may have contained a woman warrior in the antechamber, and it's one a dozen or so such tombs. I feel that there are strong ties between Macedon and Caria, and the Hecatomnus tomb in my opinion reinforces this.

Because I like to be prepared, I started setting up my PowerPoint presentation for Copenhagen quite a while back (hey, May 2012 was only 20 months away ...). 

The lion hunt scene on the back of the Hecatomnus sarcophagus has strong parallels to the hunt frieze on the facade of Vergina Tomb II, the Mausoleum, the Alexander Sarcophagus, etc ... And there are many other strong parallels.

There is also an interesting link to Heracles in the two Dynasties, and Alexander the Great is often depicted on coins wearing a lion skin. So is the chap on this coin from Caria, which may be Hecatomnus (illustrated below), or may be Heracles or ...

(I know it sounds as if I'm giving away too much of my research here, but there is plenty more I'll keep for the conference).
I decided to try to find a better image of it on the internet (remember - only 20 months to go to the conference ... and it would have saved time scanning) - so I ran a search for Hecatomnus coins.
Now I will admit that coins are not my area, and I have very little interest in them per se. I find them invaluable for what they tell us - whether from their contexts or what they illustrate - and some can be very beautiful, but they're not my cup of tea.

But I was under the impression, based on reading Simon Hornblower's Mausolus, and the vast majority of the books, articles, field reports and so forth, published on Caria and the Hecatomnids, that ... there ain't that many coins of Hecatomnus around. Caria only started minting its own coins around the start of his reign (maximum length allowed by our sources 394-377 BC, and probably much shorter). And he may have been Satrap for little over ten years.

So you can imagine my surprise when I clicked through some links and discovered quite how many Hecatomnid coins had come up at auction in 2010: Hecatomnus, Mausolus, Idrieus, Pixodarus.

I'm particularly surprised how many coins of Hecatomnus have been showing up in auctions, many of them centred around Munich.

I particularly like this coin with what may be a portrait of Hecatomnus sold by CNG, from his Mylasa mint.
In this coin, also sold by CNG, the beard is not as well defined, but one can see the laurel wreath he's wearing.

I also like the coins of Hecatomnus, showing Zeus Carius (aka Zeus Labraundos ), who had his sanctuary near Mylasa at Labraunda, as well as a temple at Mylasa - there were three temples of Zeus in the town, one above the tomb of Hecatomnus, which may or may not be the temple of Zeus Carius (it's debated by scholars). One coin failed to sell at Monnaies d'Antan, another coin is coming up soon at Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co.The lion on the reverse is similar to the ones from the Mausoleum.

I'm not so keen on the coins with a lion head on one side, and a rosette on the other, but the point is that a surprising number of coins of Hecatomnus have been or are scheduled to be in auctions this year - see here for 2010. Numismatik Lanz München and CNG (see here) seem to be auctioning these coins, for those keeping track.

I've been chatting to a few people - dealers, collectors, curators, etc.

Numismatik Lanz München is a name that keeps coming up, as they seem to have had some exceptional material and a number of hoards over the years. (No comment on their moto, prominently displayed on their web site "Cash is Beautiful"). They sold in June 2010 a very nice early Carian coin, which dates to just before Hecatomnus or to his reign. A Hecatomnus lion coin. A coin of Idrieus with Zeus Carius. This unsold coin of Pixadorus.

The Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co auction on the 27th September 2010 had 22 Carian coins; including three of Hecatomnus (the Zeus Carius mentioned above; one lion head / rosette and a second one). 
I particularly like the two coins with portraits from the time of Idrieus and Ada (here and here); she wears a diadem on one coin, he wears a lion skin on both. Künker are also selling a coin similar to the one that started my search - but with the lion skin clad head facing the opposite direction (see photo to left).

More listings of coins for sale can be found here and here.

Scholars will continue to dispute what may or may not be depicted on the coins.

I wouldn't want to sugegst let alone claim that these coins were looted or that that they have anything to do with the complex built around Hecatomnus' Tomb at Mylasa. It just seems rather coincidental that the Turkish police catch a bunch of looters working in the area, and that a number of coins seem to be trickling onto the market. And the same names in Munich and Turkey keep coming up.

In a similar fashion I've been wondering what kind of grave good there might have been in the tomb before the looters stole them. Again, I make no accusations of looting - for Christie's has given these two pieces a provenance ("Private collection, Antwerp, Belgium, 1980s.") - but the shape of this phiale is associated with the western Satrapies, of which Caria was one, and this skythos is the sort that was found in tombs of the period. Obviously they came out of tomb, but when or from what area will never be known - and they are of mediocre quality, from a lesser tomb. Hecatomnus would have had better!

The sudden appearance of so many coins linked to Hecatomnus and his family may well be a coincidence.

Everything I've heard suggests a hoard. We'll probably never know when it was found, let alone where, but it's been slowly coming onto the market.

This Hecatomnus coin was listed by CNG in 2008, and that's about the time more and more of these coins started to come onto the market. I'm guessing that's also why they started to go down in price. It is considered very rare.

The coins with a lion head and a rosette have been trickling through since about 2003.

The coins with a lion head on both sides have been being listed since 2008.

This type of coin of Hecatomnus, showing Zeus Labraundos and a lion, seems to have been coming on the market with a few in 2005 & 2006, then again starting in 2010 (like the one in this photo).

To me the patterns would suggest two hoards. One in the early 2000s, and in 2008. The dealers will, I am sure, assure us that they were legally acquired from old collections. Coins travelled in the ancient world, but as far as I am aware - I could be wrong! - all known Carian coins with find spots come from Caria.

A so-called "Hecatomnus Hoard" is given as the provenance of some much earlier sales. This hoard was not unearthed by archaeologists, and not legally exported from Turkey, but was sold by Bruce McNall's Numismatic Fine Arts in the 1980s. He worked a lot with Robert Hecht. And he admitted smuggling coins to Vanity Fair. He formed the Hunt collections, then sold his own.

The Hecatomnus hoard was apparently found in 1977 at Söke (between Miletus and Ephesus), and published as having been burried 390-385 BC - though frankly I don't know how curators could publish a looted hoard, let alone be so certain about it (Ashton, Richard H.J., Philip Kinns, Koray Konuk, and Andrew R. Meadows. 2002a. The Hecatomnus Hoard (CH 5.17, 8.96, 9.387).) .
The volume of coin hoards photos are lavishly illustrated, but only the text with good descriptions is available online, including auctions and dealers who were advertising the coins to this date (subsequent sales are very easy to find illustrated online):

A “Pixodarus Hoard” of around 340 BC was found in 1978 by the theatre in Halicarnassus, which is why so many of his coins are 'available' for sale. Again this was nicely illustrated, but only the text is available online:


Because of the people whose names come up, the sellers involved, and the way so many of the coins are centering around Munich - where material looted from Turkey tends to end up - I think there is another hoard coming onto the market.

Anyway, this is an update version of a post I wrote in 2010, and which I posted to various people in the US. The attitude then was "so what? Turkey will never claim them"

I am asking people to do the right thing; coins from the Hectomnus Hoard and the Pixodrarus Hoard were stolen from Turkey after 1970, and the proof of this is in the details of the publication. Surely it's better to return them to Turkey rather than end up with coins you can't even admit to owning? This only a personal appeal from me, as one human being, to you as another.  If you need help returning them, just post 'em to your local Turkish Embassy - or drop me a line and I will do what I can to help Dorothy.Lists [@] Gmail.com


  1. Dorothy;

    As usual, your research seems sound, your logic is impeccable, your diplomacy is intelligent and your appeal is fair. Please extend your concern to the eventual fate of any repatriated coins and explain to your readers how our knowledge of the past, and the preservation of these objects, will thus be enhanced. It might be wise also to explain the basis of ethics and law and touch on how variable and unrelated the two can be. If some of these coins that you studied were exported illegally, and I seriously doubt that the ALL were, how would you propose that the market discriminate within the law? If this is simply an appeal for people to "do the right thing" then it is a purely ethical appeal and that opens a Pandora's Box of opinions that frankly are irrelevant to law. Having said that, I think you have raised a valid question and one that buyers of coins from Caria ought to visit and form their own opinions about until law supersedes ethics (which it probably will sooner or later).



  2. Mr Sayles, I request that neither you nor any other ACCG Board Members neither email me nor leave messages on my blog until my attorney has been able to resolve the various issues your various attorneys, writing to me personally and professionally on behalf of the ACCG are claiming. I will consider any further contact to be harassment, as I have already asked ALL your lawyers to go through mine.

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