100 Roman coins were probably an offering for a safe passage across the river

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When amateur treasure hunters discovered 107 ancient Roman coins on the banks of a river in the Netherlands at the end of 2017, they had no idea why the coins were there. Now the archaeologists have solved the case.

In Roman times, there was probably a shallow passage known as a ford in this narrow part of the river, and superstitious travelers likely offered coins to ensure safe passage through the waterway, like a partisan throwing a penny into a fountain, wrote the archaeologists in a report published on June 6 by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.

Most of the rooms had military images, which may echo the earlier local practice of placing war-related objects, such as axes, swords, and helmets, along rivers and other bodies of water. said report co-researcher Liesbeth Claes, assistant professor. at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. “It could be a pre-Roman custom that continued into Roman times but in a different way”, Claes said in a press release. To deduce that this practice has persisted “was an important eureka moment in my university career”.

Related: Photos: Roman-era silver jewelry and coins found in Scotland

Amateur archaeologists, brothers Nico and Wim van Schaijk, found the pieces with metal detectors along the river Aa in the village of Berlicum. The hiding place included four silver denarii and 103 bronze sesterces (worth a quarter of a denier), as well as axes. After the van Schaijks reported the find to Portable Antiquities of the Netherlands, an agency that lists artifacts found in the country, archaeologists found a bronze pendant from a horse harness and two other Roman coins on the site, bringing the total to 109 pieces. All coins were minted between 27 BC and 180 AD, while the pendant dated between 120 and 300 AD.

The fact that these coins weren’t too valuable (there weren’t any gold coins, for example); were scattered over a large area and not buried together in a “chest or amphora”; and were minted over a period of more than 200 years, suggesting that the coins were not hidden by one person or group as a single treasure, but were probably “deposited by different people over a long period of time. “said Claes.

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A dupondius coin depicting the Roman Emperor Trajan.

A dupondius coin depicting the Roman Emperor Trajan with military images. (Image credit: Portable Antiques from the Netherlands; PAN 00035081)
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A coin depicting the profile of the Roman Emperor Trajan on one side and Victoria, goddess of conquest, on the other.

A coin depicting the profile of the Roman Emperor Trajan on one side and Victoria, goddess of conquest, on the other. (Image credit: Portable Antiques from the Netherlands; PAN 00035079)

During the team’s analysis of the site, they found a document from 1832 that noted a path crossing the river. “Apparently there was a ford there, where people could wade across the river,” Claes said. “Later the ford fell into disuse. This information, along with the discovery of the coins, convinced us that Roman-era travelers brought offerings here for safe passage.”

Even though the river is not a fast flowing river, “For traders in particular it was important to be able to transport their goods safely to the other side,” she said. “And there is also the fact that in ancient times rivers still had sacred connections,” which would support the hypothesis that the coins were offerings.

Archaeologists have yet to find concrete evidence of a Roman-era ford at the site. But they hope future excavations can uncover clues to its existence, they wrote in the report. Additionally, although the team praised the enthusiasts for discovering the coins, “it is advisable not to allow metal detection in the council area, so that existing coins and other metal finds are not taken out of context without an archaeological investigation, “they wrote in the translated report.

Originally posted on Live Science.



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