ALTŪN TAMḠĀ “gold mark of ownership” (Tk.), a seal that was used throughout their empire by the Mongol rulers of Iran (including the Chupanids and Jalayerids), especially for financial or property decisions and in documents relating to financial transactions by the state. The term itself does not occur universally (see Āl Tamḡā), though in the kingdom of Čaḡatay an altan nišan is mentioned (see L. Ligeti, Monuments préclassiques I: XIIIe et XIVe siècles, Budapest, 1972, p. 229, with bibliog.). However, its use was limited to the Mongol period.

According to Rašīd-al-dīn (see G. Doerfer, Türkische und mongolische Elemente in Neupersischen, 4 vols., Wiesbaden, 1963-75, II, pp. 556-57) there were three categories of gold seals: Large gold seals for moderately important matters (ǰehat-e motawasseṭāt-e omūr); special seals for military affairs, bearing the images of a bow, a club, and a sword (it is uncertain whether these seals were used as the gold seal per se); finally, small gold seals (altūn tamḡā-ye kūčak) used to stamp the checks (barawāt)of the treasuries, commercial letters, etc. On one occasion only Rašīd-al-dīn mentions the altūn tamḡā-ye ḵāṣṣa which sealed an imperial document entrusted to a special courier (see Doerfer, Elemente I, p. 552). For the rest, the gold seal is always referred to in a fiscal context (for a detailed catalogue, see G. Herrmann and Doerfer, “Ein persisch-mongolischer Erlass des Ğalāyeriden,” pp. 41-42). According to Herrmann (“Ein Erlass von Qara Yūsof,” p. 238), green seals (yašil belge)were also used for this purpose. On the front cover these documents bore the archive entry of leading treasury and chancellery officials. According to K. Lech (Das Mongolische Weltreich. Al-ʿUmarī’s Darstellung der mongolischen Reiche in seinem Werke Masālik al-abṣār fī mamālik al-amṣār, Wiesbaden, 1968, p. 158) “decrees (yarāliḡ) and ordinances (aḥkām) relating to fiscal matters, the so-called alṭān [sic, but since the Arabic text has alṭan, read rather alṭon] tamḡā” were issued at the suggestion and behest of the vizier (who of course acted in the name of the ruler, as the extant records testify). While therefore in its administrative function the altūn tamḡā was similar to the āl tamḡā, the latter in fact carried greater weight. The epithet applied to the altūn tamḡā was homāyūn (Herrmann and Doerfer, “Ein persisch-mongolischer Erlass aus dem Jahr 725/1325,” p. 319). The language of the surviving altūn tamḡās, which are admittedly late examples, is Arabic; we do not know whether they were couched in Mongol prior to Abū Saʿīd (r. 717-36/1317-35). The altūn tamḡās were attached to the document where the total amount of tax due was shown (to prevent forgeries). As a safeguard the seal was explicitly mentioned in the body of the Persian text of bilingual documents, though not in the Mongolian text.


The altūn tamḡā is frequently mentioned in Persian sources such as Rašīd-al-dīn; the altūn bēlgā in Waṣṣāf seems to have an identical or at least similar significance (see Doerfer, Elemente II, pp. 112, 554-65).

Mongol-Persian documents bearing the altūn tamḡā are listed in G. Herrmann and G. Doerfer, “Ein persisch-mongolischer Erlass aus dem Jahr 725/1325,” ZDMG 125, 1975, pp. 317-46.

See also idem, “Ein persisch-mongolischer Erlass des Ğalāyeriden Šeyḫ Oveys,” Central Asiatic Journal 19, 1975, pp. 1-84.

G. Herrmann, Persische Urkunden der Mongolenzeit (in preparation; this work discusses the records from Ardabīl and also gives an historical account of the use of seals).

Idem, “Urkunden-Funde in Āẕerbāyğān,” AMI 4, 1971, pp. 249-62.

Idem, “Ein Erlass des Ğalāyeriden Solṭān Ḥoseyn aus dem Jahr 780/1378,” Göttinger Orientforschungen I.3.I, ed. G. Wiessner, Wiesbaden, 1973, pp. 135-63.

Idem, “Ein Erlass von Qara Yūsof zugunsten des Ordens von Ardabīl,” AMI 9, 1976, pp. 225-42.

W. Hinz, “Das Rechnungswesen orientalischer Reichsfinanzämter im Mittelalter,” Der Islam 29, 1949, pp. 1-29.

Idem, “Steuerinschriften aus dem mittelalterlichen Vorderen Orient,” Belleten 13, 1949, pp. 745-69.


(G. Doerfer)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: August 2, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 9, pp. 913-914

Cite this entry:

G. Doerfer, “ALTŪN TAMḠĀ,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition, 1982, available at