Inhabitants of Baetica preferred to hide the coins of Emperor Diocletian

(ORDO NEWS) — Spanish scientists spent six years studying the largest cache of Roman coins ever found in the Iberian Peninsula.

In 2016, construction work was carried out in El Saudin Park in the small Andalusian city of Tomares (Spain).

During them, heavy equipment accidentally stumbled upon 19 large ceramic vessels, filled, as it turned out, with tens of thousands of Roman coins.

The excavator’s bucket broke ten amphoras, but nine more were saved from impact and remained intact and sealed.

Now, archaeologists from the University of Seville have released a report , “Currency and Metal in Late Antiquity: The Treasures of Tomares,” in which they talked about these finds.

The researchers studied only those coins that spilled out of broken amphoras upon impact: they did not open the sealed vessels, and they also decided not to extract the remains from the broken ones.

Inhabitants of Baetica preferred to hide the coins of Emperor Diocletian 2
Some of the amphoras were broken by the excavator bucket, but some remained intact and sealed

As a result, experts analyzed 5899 items and came to the conclusion that about 53,000 coins were stored in 19 amphoras that were buried in the territory of the now defunct Roman villa. All of them were minted between 294 and 311 AD.

El Saudin is located in the area of ​​the province of Seville known as El Aljarafe. This is a plateau about a hundred meters high, which overlooks the countryside around the Guadalquivir.

Due to its favorable geographical position, the area has been inhabited since the Eneolithic. A variety of cultures have left their mark on the plateau: dolmens, Phoenician sanctuaries and the remains of a Roman city coexist there. In Roman times, this area was part of the province of Baetica.

Archaeological excavations carried out after the discovery included georadar and stratigraphic surveys. These methods recorded the remains of a 3rd-4th-century building with now almost completely destroyed walls and buttresses (vertical elements of the building), which were characteristic of a Roman granary.

Above the granary was a portico supported by columns, under which the treasure was buried. The authors of the studies believe that the vault was built in the 1st century, and abandoned in the 4th century, around the same time, amphoras with coins were hidden under the portico.

Two centuries later, the building was dismantled to reuse its materials, but no one guessed that a treasure lay under their feet.

According to experts, the warehouse was part of a villa, which sources had not previously reported. Roman villas in the provinces were usually large agri-food complexes that included, in addition to the house of the aristocrat, buildings for food production and living quarters for workers.

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Scientists extrapolated data from almost six thousand studied coins to the entire hoard

For analysis, only 5,899 coins were available to experts, which is approximately 10% of the entire hoard. A report from the University of Seville said that this was “a sufficient and reliable percentage to make some preliminary observations about the composition of the samples that can be extrapolated to the entire set.”

The studied coins were minted under the emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Constance, Galerius, Constantine, Severus, Maximinus, Licinius and Maxentius. They came from the mints of Rome, Carthage, Aquileia, Ticinum, Lugdunum, Londinium, Siskia and Ostia.

A smaller number of coins came from Alexandria, Cyzicus, Thessalonica, Heraclia, Nicomedia and Antioch. The emperor whose name appears on the most coins is Diocletian, and the mint is Carthage.

The question arises why there are more coins of the era of Diocletian than coins of any other period. The answer, according to scientists, is that as the emperors changed and inflation increased, the weight of the coins and the percentage of silver in them decreased.

In 294, 32 coins were minted from one volume of silver, in 307 this number increased to 40, between 307 and 309 years this amount of silver was used to make 48 coins, and between 310 and 311 the figure reached 72.

In other words, the owner of the treasure preferred keep Diocletian’s money, which contained more silver, as the most valuable investment.

Why did so many coins end up in one hand? Emperor Diocletian carried out an administrative reform that ended the so-called Crisis of the 3rd century. The reform changed the principles of governing both the empire as a whole and within the provinces.

Historians believe that in some provinces it caused political uncertainty and conflicts between rulers. All this could lead to the desire of a wealthy Roman, the owner of the villa, to hide the funds until better times. Not the smartest idea, because it looks like the owner of the treasure never had a better time.


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