The usage of gold for coinage is rare in the Greek world. However, the first usage of an alloy of gold and silver called "electrum" - or "white gold" - coincides with the introduction of coinage in Western Anatolia, an area close to the kingdom of Lydia. The finding of two coin deposits in the excavations of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus at the beginning of the 20th century was of critical importance for dating these earliest issues. Their concealment as foundation deposits has been explained with the renovations of the Sanctuary in 560 B.C. Thus, electrum coins may have been introduced at the beginning of the 6th century. Some scholars, on the other hand, date the earliest coins to the last third of the 7th century B.C.
The earliest electrum coinage - which was minted essentially on a "Lydo-Milesian" standard - includes a stater weighing about 14.1 grams and some of its fractions, down to 1/96th of the stater. Both sides of these coins can be smooth, or bear stripes on one side, or even images of animals or animal protomes on one side and the mark of one or two punches - the so-called "incuse square" - on the other. To assign coins to specific mints is often very difficult. The high value of the various denominations shows that they were used for economic transactions of a fairly high level.
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