It started out like any normal day for the construction crew in Tomares, Spain. They had been sent to dig a trench in the small town, which lies in the southern province of Seville. Their task was to lay some electricity cables in order to send power to a nearby park. But what they found was far more electrifying than that.
The machinery that the crew was using to rip up the ground hit something strange – something that was different from the soil in the surrounding area. The work came to a stop so the workers could investigate just what they had hit.
Intriguingly, though, this is a story not simply of one discovery – but of two. Because while the objects the machines had hit were pretty interesting, what was inside them was absolutely astounding. Indeed, the find transformed what had been an ordinary cable trench into the site of one of the most amazing hauls of Roman treasure to ever be unearthed.
Initially, the men thought that they had simply found a collection of Roman pots, known as amphoras. This find would have been impressive in itself due to the sheer number of the receptacles. Indeed, there were 19 different jugs in the trench, and nearly half of them were intact. But then the workers looked a little closer.
Jugs like these were usually used to carry liquids and food. And in Roman times they’d have mainly been used to transport wine, although they’d sometimes have contained olive oil or other edible items. But these, it transpired, weren’t just any old larder amphoras. What they actually contained was breathtaking.
The machinery the workers were using had cracked open some of the jugs. And rather than ancient food residues, what came pouring out of them was a real shock. Amazingly, it turned out that each of the amphoras was actually stuffed to the brim with ancient bronze coins.
The coins were around 1,700 years old, dating back to either the third or the fourth century A.D. And after this initial discovery, the archaeologists who took over the case found out some even more amazing information about this truly colossal find. They even came up with a theory as to why it was there.
After carefully removing the ancient currency, scientists discovered that the coins alone weighed around 1,300 pounds. They were stamped with the likenesses of two Roman emperors, Constantine and Maximian. And what they’re worth now is incredible.
It’s estimated that the worth of the haul runs to millions of dollars. Not bad for something that workers stumbled across on an otherwise normal day on the job. But alongside the vast monetary worth of the hoard, researchers have also discovered something that’s likely to intrigue anyone.
There was something strange about the coins. And that was what led researchers to a better understanding of just how all that currency had ended up in the pots.
While it’s likely that the coins were produced in the eastern reaches of the Roman Empire, there’s very little wear on them from use. This has led researchers to suggest that the reason so many of them were stored together was in order to pay taxes to the Roman authorities. That, in fact, is part of what makes the find unique.
Indeed, a find like this isn’t just rare in Spain – it’s rare anywhere in the world. Such hoards, where the coins are all of the same kind, are scarcely found intact. And archaeologists believe that they know why the coins were discovered like this.
The amphoras were found in a storage space and covered up with other broken objects. In other words, it looked very much like the pots of coins had been intentionally concealed under the ground by whoever put them there.
This obviously throws up another question: why were the pots hidden? And although researchers have yet to come up with a definitive explanation, it’s easy to imagine a few scenarios that would have seen the massive haul of coins spirited away out of the sight of prying eyes.
The jugs weighed so much when they were full of coins that it is highly unlikely one person on their own would have been able to move them. But whether or not we ever find out how or why the coin-filled amphoras ended up where they were discovered, they still give us an incredible glimpse into the Roman past.
After the coins were discovered and catalogued, they were transferred to the Archaeology Museum in Seville for more study. And because of the high quality of the coins, as well as the sheer number of them, researchers are sure that they’re going to be able to uncover some more information about them.
Yet while one might think that this would provoke another archaeological dig in the area to see if any more artifacts could be discovered, that’s not been the case so far. In fact, the workers who found the pots were only delayed for an afternoon. By the next day, they were back to digging trenches.
In fact, that was because the find was so incredible. The archaeologists involved all agreed that it was highly unlikely they were going to find anything else of the same magnitude nearby. Indeed, this really was the historical definition of a one-off, so they allowed the workers to carry on digging.
Even so, it’s amazing to think that less than three feet under the ground, a treasure trove of such magnitude was just waiting to be discovered. And all it took was the need for a few new cables under a park for the coins to be dug up. It makes you wonder what else is down there…
When all of the coins have been thoroughly checked over, they’ll be put on display at the museum in Seville. They provide a wonderful reminder of just how much history is beneath our feet. And they also serve to remind us how even the most ordinary of days at work can turn into something truly extraordinary – without warning.