ISSN: 1309-8780
e-ISSN: 2822-3985

E. Emine Naza Dönmez

İstanbul University, Faculty of Letters, Art History Department, Turkish and Islamic Art Department, 34134-İstanbul/TÜRKİYE

Keywords: German Tokens, Amasya, Harşena Fortress, Maidens Palace, Nuremberg.

Amasya, Harşena Fortress and Maidens’ Palace Excavations

Amasya, which is understood to be part of the land of Hatti that is localized at the bend of the Maraššantiya (Kızılırmak) River and its vicinity, a part of the Antique Upper Land, is identified as the region of today’s Tokat and Sivas. There are theories that Hakmiš (Hakpiš), which was a provincial capital in the Upper Land, could be Amasya City Center or even Harşena Fortress. The Theory of Hakmiš being in Amasya carries no scientific weight since there have been found no traces of Hittite settlement in Harşena Fortress and the topography of Harşena Mountain is not suitable for Hittite settlement tradition. The growing body of archaeological studies points out that the earliest settlements in the Amasya region may have been founded on the Maiden’s Palace (Kızlar Sarayı) and the terraces to its southern side. The exact urbanization period of the ancient settlement, which is partially characterized by Harşena Fortress and partially encompasses the two shores of Yeşilırmak that now are covered by modern structures, cannot be identified. Our systematic archaeological excavations were started in 2009 and have enabled us to reach some new and important conclusions about both the Seljuk and Ottoman periods and the protohistoric times of Amasya (see Chronological Table). Some evidence uncovered in Ottoman period strata -in the excavations concentrated on Upper Fortress and Maidens’ areas- although found in more strata than only in the layers of their original period, points to a pre-urbanization settlement in Amasya solely with their presence (Table 1)[1] .

That Amasya is not mentioned in the work of Herodotus (484-420 BC), who was one of the most important ancient writers, proves that the settlement at the Maidens’ Palace probably had no significance in the 5th century BC. This lack of attention by Herodotus, an observer and a chronicler who meticulously narrated the historical events, peoples and geographical properties, suggests how insignificant the settlement was in 5th century BC, when the majestic fortress and the rock-cut royal tombs had not yet been built. The presence of the floral and geometric painted pottery and bronze pointed Scythian arrowheads uncovered in Maidens’ Palace proves that in the time of Herodotus, a settlement was located in the place where the Maidens’ Palace stands today, which was politically under Persian (Achaemenid) control and was traditionally influenced by the Phrygian culture[2]

The castle was built on Mount Harşena whose high slopes in the north drop steeply down towards the Yeşilırmak River. The fortification walls of the castle were confined to the South by the riverbed that runs east-west to the foot of the mountain. The walls extend from the south upwards over the rocks in a northern direction until they reach Harşena Fortress (Upper Citadel). The Hellenistic Period fortification walls begin in front of the rock-cut Tombs of the Pontic Kings in the district known as Maidens’ Palace. The walls along the river date to the Roman Period. The fortress, which consists of three main sections, has been used by many civilizations and has from the start been subject to reconstructions and additions from top to downwards first the Upper Castle called Harşena Castle, below that and in front of the rockcut tombs of the Pontic Kings is the castle-terrace called Kızlar Sarayı and the Lower Palace all are in today’s Hatuniye District[3] .

With the permission of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General Directorate for Cultural Assets and Museums, excavations of Harşena Fortress and Maidens’ Palace have been carried out by Asst. Prof. E. Emine Naza Dönmez of Istanbul University, Department of Art History since 2009. The excavations continue with the financial support of the Executive Secretariat of Scientific Research Projects of Istanbul University and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism DOSİM. The 2009-2010/2015-2016 excavations were done in an area north of Harşena Fortress’ cannon tower. In the grid squares named A, B, C, C1 and D two different cultural phases dating to the pre-Ottoman period and the Ottoman Period were identified together with architectural structures from four different periods that were built in terraces following the topography of the land[4] . (Map 1), (Fig. 1), (Fig 2).

The excavation seasons of 2011-2013 were done in the area, front of the Royal Tombs in Maidens’ Palace area. The excavation work was done in plan-squares of C2, E3, C4 and D4 to the north of the 14th century baths. The gap to the southern edge of the room which was thought to be an extension is conceived to be a drainage canal. This room, with its many ceramic finds is considered to be a kitchen. Supported with the historical facts, Hüseyin Hüsameddin mentions the presence of two baths and a kitchen here in this area of palace ruins. The remnants of the extension in E3 sounding to the north of the bath here can be the ruins of the kitchen for Maidens’ Palace[5] . (Fig. 3)

Excavations of 2017-2019 in Harşena Fortress were done in the area named the Mosque Area, located at the entrance of the castle, South of the Watchtower[6] . According to Hüseyin Hüsameddin, the upper citadel had two gateways, a palace, a madrasah, a zaviyah, an almshouse, a well, and two baths. One of the ramparts had a sight of east and the other one had a sight of north. Gateways are located to northeast and west (Towards the Hızır Paşa District). It is known that when entered from the eastern gate there was a mosque ruin with its mihrab and the foundations of its minaret visible. Evliya Çelebi mentions that Yıldırım Han Mosque is located inside the fortress on the path climbing to the Upper Citadel[7] . (Fig. 4)

The pedestal slot of a Fire altar from the Roman Period is located to the north of the area. The location of the fire altar here is evidenced by the depiction of Harşena Mountain of a bronze coin from the period of Emperor Alexander Severus (222-235 BC). On the coin, the temples in the fortress and the fire rising from the fire altar can be seen. The pedestal slot of the fire altar is suggested to have been used as the base of the minaret of Yıldırım Mosque. Evliya Çelebi mentions the Yıldırım Han Mosque in the fortress. In aerial photos taken after the excavation session, square planned foundation walls and the foundation cavity forming the base of minaret in the north-west can be seen clearly. These evaluations can prove the thesis that these walls can be the remains of the Yıldırım Mosque. In the excavation to the southeast of the mosque, a straightforward Ottoman Street and an outbuilding that resembles an almshouse were uncovered[8] .

German Tokens

Coin-like tokens which were known from ancient-time have been utilized for many different reasons. Coins are metallic money that was minted by political authority, that was used in the trade, and had economic value. Also, in the ancient period, tesserae were used with proposes other than the grain trade and became a device for exchange by taking the place of coins. They started to be used for many purposes from tokens to special objects carrying the symbol of an important group, which enabled people to enter special events and places in the 4th century BC[9] . Tokens on the other hand were minted from precious and semi-precious metals such as bronze, copper, aluminum, brass even bakelite glass[10] and had no monetary value. Tokens, primarily used in calculation earlier, have also been minted for the anniversaries of reigning nobility and rich families. Tokens which were also being used in payphones until recently and still find usage in our modern times in gaming consoles, coatrooms, pools, tea houses, etc. Tokens which were utilized alongside abacuses in ancient times were remembered in medieval period and re-emerged in Italy. Tokens which have become prevalent in the activities of the church, monasteries and the wealthy bankers have also seen usage in France and England from 12th to late 13th century. When the Roman numerical system was abandoned because of the Arabic numerals, the usage of tokens for calculation purposes was also abandoned in Europe[11].

Reckoning counters were used both in England and on the Continent for performing calculations of manual arithmetic, especially in accountancy, from the thirteenth century onwards. Their usage declined from the time of Charles I and completely disappeared by the seventeenth century. While the term “reckoning counter” was generally used in England for these tokens the common term used in continent was “jeton”, which was derived from the French word of “jeter” that means “to throw”, indicating a counting piece used for casting accounts. Since these counters were piled atop one another, high relief designs were avoided in the craftsmanship of the pieces, and types in the form of rather wide and thin discs were used. Before the counting tokens’ introduction common coins appear to have been used in accountancy[12].

The earliest Nuremberg tokens that bear a lettered and attributed signature are those struck by Iorg Schultes, the master Spengler from 1515 to his death in 1559 and his son Hans, master Spengler from 1553. At the other end of the time scale, the latest Nuremberg tokens are the ones issued by the Lauer Firm. The last guild master of the Lauer Family, Ludwig Christian Lauer was born in 1817 and died in 1873 and named the firm “L. Chr. Lauer”.

The way in which the tokens were used evolved considerably during the period of Nuremberg’s activity. The essential calculation function through the sixteenth century, which masters of Nuremberg held the virtual monopoly fell into disuse with the decline of manual arithmetic in favor of the written economics in mid-seventeenth century. Tokens after this period gained a new politico-religious advertising function. Such as the Dutch crafters manufacturing large number of political tokens in their struggle of independence against Spain. Nuremberg masters had a monopoly in this field until the use of tokens fell out of favor by the Dutch merchants. But the Nuremberg continued to produce large number of tokens and exploiting the market by undercutting the tokens of other countries. Their tokens, falling out of favor by the mercantile endeavors, found new purpose in the gaming field. Mostly the token crafters of Nuremberg kept their trade by manufacturing tokens for the gambling tables of Europe[13].

German Tokens found in Harşena Fortress and Maidens’ Palace

To this day 8 German tokens were uncovered in the excavations in Amasya, Harşena Fortress, and Maidens’ Palace. Silver French coins among them, uncovered in 2016 and 2019, which were likely minted as medals could be excluded from this group but their usage should be similar. The French tokens differ from the German counterparts with closer scrutiny and the administration’s control. Tokens manufactured in France, although they hold no commercial or monetary value and cannot be used in transactions, similar to the German counterparts, usually carry the coat of arms of the French Royal House of Capet and the depiction and inscription of the reigning king or queen[14]. One of the German tokens found in Maidens’ Palace in 2011 is brass, the rest are bronze. The German tokens were minted in Nuremberg. Similar tokens were uncovered in Macedon Tower in Hadrianopolis (Edirne)[15], Alanya Fortress[16], Tabea / Kale[17] and Yoros Fortress[18] and Beçin Fortress[19] excavations. We see that the German tokens have mostly been uncovered in excavations, especially in the fortress excavations. The German tokens uncovered in Macedon Tower in Edirne is a well-documented group. It can also be considered that the German tokens found in the burial site in this excavation as the continuation of the ancient burial gift tradition[20]. The German token uncovered in Alanya Fortress is associated with the trade ships docked in Alanya Port[21]. The German tokens that were uncovered in Amasya Harşena Fortress should also be related to the trade. Amasya, situated on the Silk Road, has been an important center of commerce since the ancient period. This situation hasn’t been changed after the Turkish conquest and the city remained a center of commerce even in the Seljuk and Ottoman Periods. In the 16th century, the city had a dye house, a candle works, and a mint. At this time when the Iranian silk was imported, Amasya was an important market with routes to Bursa. Silk cocoons were imported from Iran until the 18th century and after a certain manufacturing process, the silk was produced. Amasya was the second-largest center for silk production after Bursa. In the 19th century the silk production had become a booming industry. Germens settled in the city at this time established a plant to produce quality silk. In time new buildings included to the expanding plant. The place was called “Alaman Çiftliği” (German Farm). Thanks to 19th century traveler Mordtmann, we have extensive information about the farm, but neither the farm nor the silk-waving industry has survived to the present day. The travelers and merchants who visited Amasya also give information about this farm and the silk production[22]. Especially this trade with Germans might explain the German tokens found in Harşena Fortress.


In conclusion, the German tokens that changed hands as a result of the political and commercial activities of the Ottoman Empire with the West in the 18th and 19th centuries were used in many fields primarily of them being the trade.

Other than the information from the articles we have mentioned in our paper there is not a great deal of evidence on the topic. But it is a known fact that the tokens in question were largely used throughout Europe and especially the tokens and crafters from Nuremberg have found greater renown.


2009 Harşena Fortress
Brass, damaged German Token with a hole, Inventory Number HRŞ 09 019[23]
Dimensions: Radius: 2 cm, Weight: 2.1 gr
Period: Lazarus Gottlieb (1663-1709)[24]
Obverse: LAUFER.S.RECH.PF.LAZAR.GOT. Sunburst and stars with surrounding the partially destroyed legend which dates the token to the Lazarus Gottlieb, Guildmaster of the Lauffer mint
Reverse: GOTTES REICH BLEIBT EWICK (God’s Kingdom endures forever) Imperial orb inside a stylized rose with surrounding, partially readable legend.

2011 Maiden’s Palace
Brass, German Token with a hole at the middle, Inventory Number KZS 11 002[25]
Dimensions: Radius: 2 cm, Weight: 1.9 gr
Period: Iohann Iacob Lauer (1806-1852)[26]
Obverse: A/ PLUS ULTRA, ship with three masts moving towards left.
Reverse: Ö/IOHANI LAUER RECH *PFE. ; Moon, sun and the stars.

2012 Maiden’s Palace
Brass German Token, Inventory Number KZS 12 18[27]
Dated to Hans Krauwinckel II (1585-1635).
Dimensions: Radius: 2.1 cm, Weight: 2 gr
Period: Hans Krauwinckel II (1585-1635)[28]
Obverse: Hans Krauwinckel II at the middle. In the surrounding legend: [H]ANNS KRAVWINCKEL [IN NV].
Reverse: GOTT.ALLIEIN.DIE.EER.ESEI in the legend. An imperial globe was depicted inside a frame at the middle of this side.

2016 Harşena Fortress
Silver French Style Token, Inventory Number HRŞ 16 03[29]
Dated to the period of Louis XIV King of France (1643-1715).
Dimensions: Radius: 1.9 cm, Weight: 2.2 gr
Period: 1662
Obverse: Partially destroyed profile of Louis XIV. Above his head the legend of: ‘D.XIIII.D.G’. The rest of the legend is destroyed and cannot be read.
Reverse: French Royal Coat of Arms. (A crown above the kite shield depicted with three fleur-de-lys at its middle, two on the above and one on the below). The surrounding latin legend is: ‘SIT.N(O)MEN (DOMINI)...VENEDICTVM.1662’.

Bronze German Token, Inventory Number HRŞ 16 04[30]
Coined in Nuremberg.
Dimensions: Radius: 2.2 cm, Weight: 1.2 gr
Period: Dated to Hans Schultes II (1586-1603)[31]
Obverse: IST.WAR.GLICK.KVMPT.VON.GOT (Truly, good fortune comes from God) Crown, surrounded by fleur-de-lys. In the surrounding band the legend is partially destroyed.
Reverse: HANS.SCHULTES.ZV.NV.REN Imperial globe inside a stylised rose. In the surrounding band the legend is partially destroyed.

Bronze German Token, Inventory Number HRŞ 16 05[32]
Dimensions: Radius: 1.3 cm, Weight: 0.4 gr
Period: 1783-1829
Obverse: Galleon at the middle. ‘PLUS’ legend to the left of the galleon and ‘ULTRA’ legend to the right of the galleon.
Reverse: Sun on the left, five stars at the middle and a crescent moon on the right.
Legend of ‘LAUER.VECH.PFEN.IOHA’ is on the circular band.

Harşena Fortess 2018
Bronze German Token, Inventory Number HRŞ 18 09[33]
Dimensions: Radius: 1.4 cm, Weight: 0.7 gr
Period: 1758-1814
Obverse: Sailing ship at the middle. Around the ship a legend with ‘ DURCH GLIKAN BORD’ in latin is placed in a band. There is a hole at the top of the legend band.

Reverse: Sun, stars and crescent motives are placed at the middle. The legend with the crafter’s name ‘IOHANN CHRISTIAN REICH RE. PF.’ was placed in a legend around it.

Harşena Fortess 2019
Silver French Style Token, Inventory Number HRŞ 19 04[34]
Dated to the Period of Louis XIII, King of France (1615-1643)
Dimensions: Radius: 1.9 cm, Weight: 2.2 gr
Period: 1643
Obverse: Portrait of Luis XIII with ‘LVDOVICVS.XIII.D.G.FR.ET.NAV.REX’ legend around it.
Reverse: ‘SIT.NOMEN.DOMINI.V.BENEDICTVM.1643’ legend in latin placed around the French Royal Coat of Arms of House Capet.

Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Burçin Adısönmez, Tolga Aydın, Muzaffer Doğanbaş for their assistance.



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I would like to thank the Turkish Historical Society and the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums for supporting our excavations. I would also like to extend my thanks to Burçin Adısönmez, Tolga Aydın and Dr. Dila Özgümüş who helped me with this article.


  1. Naza Dönmez 2018, 292.
  2. See Dönmez 2014, 9-28; 2015, 23-25.
  3. Gabriel 1934; 3-11 Şahin-Emecen 1990, 1-4; Tanyeli 1987; Urak 1994; Menç 2000; Bayram-Erdemir 2007, 841-875; Tuzcu 2013; Naza Dönmez 2014, 29-50; Naza Dönmez 2018, 239-328.
  4. Naza Dönmez 2010, 111-120; 2011, 267-282; Naza Dönmez 2016, 553-563.
  5. Abdizade Hüseyin Hüsameddin 2007, 32; Urak 1994; Urak 1995, 385-396; Yüce-Doğanbaş 2001, 223-234; Naza Dönmez 2012, 427-436; Naza Dönmez 2013, 279-291; Naza Dönmez 2014a, 383-392; Naza Dönmez 2014b, 29-50; Naza Dönmez 2015a, 275-280, Naza Dönmez 2015,18.
  6. Naza Dönmez- Algaç-Aydın 2018 641-651; Naza Dönmez 2019, 33-50.
  7. Abdizade Hüseyin Hüsameddin 2007, 39; Evliya Çelebi 1992, 527-528.
  8. Dönmez 2015, 23-25; Naza Dönmez 2019, 252-255.
  9. Gülbay and Kireç 2008, 10-11.
  10. For coinage stamped by Fatimid Caliphs see Uykur 2018 389-422.
  11. Bilici 2005 351-353.
  12. Mitchiner 1988, 20-21.
  13. Mitchiner 1988, 391.
  14. Mitchiner 1988, 25.
  15. Çizmeli-Öğün 2013, 433-437.
  16. Bilici 2005, 351-353.
  17. Ünal 2011, 137-155.
  18. Türkmen-Çepnioğlu 2017, 85-99.
  19. Ünal-Demir-Teoman 2009, 99-137.
  20. Çizmeli-Öğün 2013 433-437.
  21. Bilici 2005 351-353.
  22. Şahin-Emecen, 1-4. For travellers in question see Tuzcu 2013 (for Victor Fontainer p. 184-212, for William John Hamilton p. 241-256, for Henry Suter p. 310-314, for Andreas David Mordtmann p. 361-371, for Henry John Van Lennep p. 354-417).
  23. Naza Dönmez 2010, 111-120.
  24. Mitchiner 1988, 503.
  25. Naza Dönmez 2012, 427-436.
  26. Mitchiner 1988, 13.
  27. Naza Dönmez-Parlak 2013, 279-291.
  28. Mitchiner 1988, 435.
  29. Naza Dönmez-Algaç-Aydın 2017, 641-650.
  30. Naza Dönmez-Algaç-Aydın 2017, 641-650.
  31. Mitchiner 1988, 406.
  32. Naza Dönmez-Algaç-Aydın 2017, 641-650.
  33. Naza Dönmez-Algaç-Aydın 2019, 33-50.
  34. Naza Dönmez-Algaç-Aydın 2019, 33-50.

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