The earliest coinage found in the Emirates consists of five imitation Athenian tetradrachms (coins with an ideal weight of 16 g) from Mileiha
showing, on the obverse, the helmeted head of Athena, and on the reverse
the owl of Athens. Unfortunately, while the Athenian prototypes of
this coinage date to the third or early second century BC, we have
no way of knowing precisely when these imitations
were minted in Arabia, or whether they were indeed minted at Mileiha
where the majority of the known specimens have been found.
The same is true of another
class of imitations which forms by far the bulk of the coinage from
both Mileiha and al-Dur.
There are several thousand examples known of coins from both sites
which imitate the coinage of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great,
in showing the head of Heracles on the obverse, wearing the pelt
of the Nemean lion (trophy of one of Alexander's most famous 'labours'),
and on the reverse, a seated figure of the Greek god Zeus. Coins
with the same iconography (i.e. images), but with different 'legends'
- i.e. the name of a local king in place of that of Alexander -
are known from Mileiha and al-Dur. Such coins were minted by at
least two kings, Abyatha and Abi'el. These were certainly used in
the first century AD and possibly slightly earlier.
There are also foreign coins
from Mileiha and al-Dur, including large numbers of coins minted
in northeastern Arabia (i.e. eastern Saudi Arabia); several coins
minted by the Seleucid (Greek) kings of Syria and Mesopotamia; one
Roman coin of Tiberius; a handful of Indian coins; and several coins
from the kingdom of Characene,
a small kingdom which flourished in southern Iraq during the last
century BC and the first two centuries AD; and small numbers of
coins minted by the Sasanians
of Iran (third-seventh centuries AD).
Several Islamic sites in the
Emirates, such as Julfar,
have also yielded coins minted on Jarun
by the kingdom of Hormuz
and in Iran by the Safavids.