Thursday, August 4, 2016

Archaeology Student Discovers Amphora Full of 200 Silver Roman Coins

Ancient Origins

The archaeological site of Empúries (Ampurias), located in the province of Girona, Catalonia, Spain, is a unique site in the Iberian Peninsula which contains both the ruins of a Greek city -the colonial enclave of Emporion, founded in 575 BC - and a larger, later Roman city which took over from the intermediate Roman military camps. This special mix of time periods gives the archaeological site a privileged role in the understanding of the evolution of Greek and Roman urban sites at the edge of the Mediterranean thousands of years ago.

According to data provided by Canal Patrimonio (Canal Heritage), an International Archaeology Course is organized for this site each year. Although this activity has been enriching knowledge of the site for the past 70 years, excavations there continue to provide more details on ancient life. For example, a student enrolled in the course during the current campaign has recently made an exciting discovery - an amphora holding two hundred silver coins - denarii (singular ‘denarius’).
In addition, other students coming from Spain, Portugal, and Italy have also discovered a small bronze ladle, known as a 'simpulum' (a large spoon/ladle used to extract wine), the remains of a dozen amphorae that were used to store wine, and various ancient structures.
The recently discovered simpulum (ladle used for extracting wine) can be seen partially uncovered at the top of this photo.
The recently discovered simpulum (ladle used for extracting wine) can be seen partially uncovered at the top of this photo. (National Geographic / Archaeology Museum of Catalonia)
Guillermo Ortiz, a student of the University Pablo de Olavide in Sevilla discovered the amphora with the Roman denarii. His finding is one that the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia does not hesitate to qualify as a "treasure" due to the number of silver pieces.

Meanwhile, National Geographic explains that the 200 coins were found in good condition within a ceramic amphora that was apparently hidden by its owner in the 1st century BC due to a fire that hit his/her home. The silver coins have been tentatively dated to between the years 115 and 81 BC. They have representations of Rome (a figure and a helmet), animals (elephants) and other symbols (e.g. Victory) depicted on them.
Fieldwork during the current excavations at Ampurias.
Fieldwork during the current excavations at Ampurias. (Canal Patrimonio/EFE)
The bronze simpulum and the wine amphorae are mostly of Italian origin and correspond to a cellar of a Roman domus (house). Part of this structure had already been excavated, such as some private rooms, a kitchen space, etc. This house apparently belonged to a wealthy family and occupied the southern sector of the so-called Insula 30: a set of buildings that housed the public baths and was located between two main streets in Roman Ampurias.
Silver denarii were a benchmark in ancient Rome well into the imperial era, with magistrates being responsible for the minting of the coins. Most of the 200 pieces that were discovered come from central Italy, and since they have a good state of preservation, it is expected more data will be obtained from them after they are better identified and catalogued. Based on documents found in Pompeii and other ancient Roman sites, a person could have lived quite comfortably for some time with the value of the recovered coins.
Roman mosaics in ancient Ampurias.
Roman mosaics in ancient Ampurias. (Caos30/CC BY SA 4.0)
The results of the excavations from July 2016 will be very important as they provide a look at the initial phases of the Roman settlement of Ampurias – a time when the subsequent amendments made ​​during the Augustan age had yet to take place.
Top Image: The Roman silver coins that were recently discovered in Ampurias, Spain and the amphora in which they were held. Source: Canal Patrimonio/EFE
By Mariló T. A.
This article was first published in Spanish at and has been translated with permission.

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