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SYFY WIRE archaeology

A rare treasure of 2000-year-old Roman silver coins discovered in Turkey

By Jeff Spry

A shower of 651 ancient Roman silver coins has been documented by archaeologists at Pamukkale University who helped first discover this rare trove at an excavation site near the ancient Turkish city of Aizanoi back in 2019 in a water vessel buried near a stream.

In an official statement, researchers involved in the project, which was delayed due to the ongoing global pandemic and was just recently completed, indicated that 439 of these shiny coins were denarii, a type of silver monetary first minted in the third century B.C. The other 212 coins were cistophori, money originating from the ancient Greek city of Pergamum, in the area of what is currently western Turkey.

“The jug was aimed to be kept [in place] by three terracotta plates covering it,” lead archaeologist Elif Özer of Pamukkale University tells the Hurriyet Daily News, including the theory that the collection of coins was most likely buried during the reign of Emperor Augustus’ which lasted from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D.

Per a statement, Özer also concluded that these coins produced in Southern Italy, were not simply “very special and unique collection,” but “the most special silver coin find of recent times.”

Engraved with dates ranging between 75 and 4 B.C., the simple coins mostly showcase the likeness of Augustus, but others display the images of Roman emperors and politicians such as Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus and Mark Antony. While investigating the artifacts, museum researchers were surprised to see that most of the coins were amazingly well-preserved, with very little wear. 

According to Live Science, Özer has further speculated that the denarii and cistophori were part of a 2,000-year-old private coin album, a compilation of money portraying rulers from the late Roman Republic, that belonged to an elite Roman soldier.

“A high-ranking soldier [likely] came to Aizanoi ... and he must have buried these coins here for a reason we do not know yet,” Özer tells Live Science.

Each coin reflects a different story taken from mythology and popular lore. For example, one token portrays the Trojan hero Aeneas carrying his father, Anchises, on his back, which is a notable scene from Virgil's classic poetical work, The Aeneid.

For now, it's expected that this rich collection of Roman coins will be put on public display at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.