In Spain, it seems you can’t swing a hammer without hitting a pile of ancient Roman loot.
Routine work in the city of Tomares, near Seville in Andalusia, found a massive trove of Roman coins — about 1,300 pounds worth, Agence France Presse reported.
The head of Seville’s archaeology museum, which has taken authority over the find, hasn’t put a value on the stash. But Ana Navarro estimates they’re probably worth “certainly several million Euros.”
“The value they really have is historical and you can’t calculate that… It is a unique collection and there are very few similar cases.”
According to the Washington Post, the Roman coins are unique for two important reasons: the sheer volume and the fact that they appear to have never been in circulation.
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The nature of the work being carried out in the spot the coins were found changes according to the media outlet reporting on the find. It has been variously reported as routine work to the installation of a water line to ditch digging.
Tomares Urban Councillor Lola Vallejo told CNN that construction workers were digging a ditch to install electricity to Zaudín Park when they made the discovery. Evidently, they spotted something out of the ordinary inside a ditch once they’d dug about a meter deep.
“The machines hit against something that wasn’t normal for this soil. The workers immediately stopped, and soon discovered that there were many coins there, inside broken amphoras.”
Some of the amphorae — simply a type of earthenware jar — were intact, but others were broken and bursting with coins.
“Ten of (the amphoras) were broken while they were digging up the trench, and the others, as you can see, we have here, whole and full of this set of coins,” Vallejo continued.
According to the Local, the Roman coins date to the late third and early fourth centuries. On the front of the coins is the figure of an emperor and on the back, several Roman allegories (a story, poem, or picture). AFP specified that the coins were stamped with inscriptions of Roman emperors Maximian and Constantine.
The loot was stuffed inside 19 amphoras, which were smaller than those believed to carry wine and grain. Archaeologists think the jars were made to hold the money specifically.
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Navarro said they were newly minted and “bathed in silver, not just bronze.” Since they show little signs of wear and tear, archaeologists believe they were never in circulation.
“What is incredible is a discovery of this size — there are 19 amphoras, all complete, and I can assure you that they can’t be moved by one person alone, because they weigh so much due to the coins inside.”
These Roman coins are some of the most pristine ever found, compared with other treasure troves unearthed elsewhere. The discovery is also one of the biggest and most “homogenous.” Experts said the discovery is “unique in Spain and perhaps the world.”
The working theory behind the number of coin-laded jars found, their pristine condition, and their “homogenous” nature is that the trove represents a payment to the army or civil servants in the form of tax collection or levies.
At the site the Roman coins were found, archaeologists will now replace construction workers. Work has been suspended and an excavation of the site will begin. The coins are being examined by experts at Seville’s Archaeology Museum.
The Romans took over the Iberian Peninsula in 218 B.C. During that time, they filled Spain with amazing architecture, including Tower of Hercules in Galicia, the world’s oldest Roman lighthouse — which is still being used — and the Aqueduct of Segovia.
The Romans ruled the peninsula for 700 years and turned Andalusia into a rich colony. They were run out by the Visigoths in the early fifth century.
[Photo by City Council of Tomares/AP Images]