In search of the “mysteries” of the Tomares Treasury: 53,000 Roman coins found in 2016

In search of the “mysteries” of the Tomares Treasury: 53,000 Roman coins found in 2016

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It could have been hidden by "fear" in the twilight of the "conflict" Roman tetrarchy and whoever buried him would have died without regaining his riches

The unexpected always has a specific weight due to its very nature of irruption and impact. It is the surprise factor, as strategists call it, although many times the surprise derives simply from uncontrollable aspects for the increasingly technical dynamics of human beings.

It is the case of «Treasure» of 19 amphoras full of Roman coins discovered in Tomares (Seville) on April 27, 2016, in an absolutely fortuitous and casual way.

That day, a group of workers was digging a ditch with a backhoe loader as part of the work to transform the El Zaudín olive grove into a peri-urban park, when one of the attacks of the mechanical shovel tore from the surface not only earth, stones and roots, but also ceramic remains and various visibly old coins.

The authorities notified, the historical heritage protection protocol involved the extraction of soil from 19 antique amphoras loaded with coins, since half of the containers were fractured as a result of the attack of the mechanical shovel.

Once it was verified that the amphorae contained 600 kilograms of bronze coins minted by the Roman Empire, the discovery of this fabulous “treasure” became a world-wide news item, attracting the attention of media such as British newspapers. The Guardian or The Telegraph, the French newspapers Le Figaro or L'Express or the American television network CNN, to name a few examples.

Mass shipment of coins

The international media did not skimp on adjectives, reporting the discovery of "a massive shipment of Roman coins", a "huge booty" of coins or a "treasure discovered by chance."

The impact of the surprising discovery is currently translated into a constant expectation regarding the restoration of what is already known as “Tomares treasure”And on the scientific research promoted to find out as much as possible about it.

It was precisely on such extremes that a conference recently led by the professor of Archeology of the Sevilla University Enrique Garcia Vargas, one of the experts of the scientific team organized for the treatment of coins and their archaeological and historical research.

After 22,474 coins belonging to the amphoras fractured by the backhoe machine on the day of the discovery were already inventoried in December 2017, García Vargas recalled that it is calculated that this "exceptional treasure" It is made up of about 53,000 bronze coins, because their exact number is not yet known as the nine amphoras discovered intact are still closed.

At the time of the conference, as detailed by this professor of Archeology, the scientific team in charge of the coins had cleaned and restored 3,200 of them and had historically and numismatically cataloged a total of 2,850, setting the year 312 AD as the earliest date of the "concealment" of the treasure, dating from that year the most recent coin among all those examined so far, waiting to open the still sealed amphorae.

Thus, and always thanks to the dates of minting of the coins, the group of scientists in charge of their study frames the burial of the "treasure" in the period of the Tetrarchy of the Lower Roman Empire, a system of government established by the emperor Diocletian in the year 293 after Christ, dividing the power between two august and two caesars.

In fact, among the coins of the “Tomares treasure"There are copies minted by the different emperors that occurred during this "truly conflictive" period in the history of ancient Rome, since some of the mints from which these coins were issued correspond to cities of the Roman Empire "Very far away" from each other, such as London, Lyon, Rome or Treveris.

Intentionally concealed

Enrique García Vargas also assured that the investigators have no doubt that the "treasure" was "intentionally hidden", since the archaeological excavation carried out in the surroundings of the find revealed that the amphorae were deposited under the floor of the "porch" of a "rustic" construction that would have been part of an "agricultural exploitation", combined with some "residential use" given the profile of various ceramic fragments located in the area.

"Under a lime pavement that nobody paid attention to" on the porch of this "rustic building away from the residential area", according to Enrique García Vargas, the treasure would have gone completely unnoticed, even when this structure would have been looted between the second half 5th century and the beginning of the next century.

From that point on, García Vargas pointed out the need for answers regarding the “meaning of the treasure”. "Why did they hide it? And the most mysteriouswhy didn't they get it back? ”, Said this member of the research team, recognizing that there are no certainty about the“ reasons ”for such extremes but proposing some hypotheses that are the result of the historical context and common sense.

In such a way, García Vargas recalled that the Tetrarchy period was a particularly “troubled” time in the Roman Empire given the division of power, instability and political tensions, which would have resulted in "moments of fear" for the society of those times, with the possibility that the treasure was hidden to prevent any consequence of the geopolitical situation.

Why was it not recovered?

Regarding the "great problem of why the treasure was not recovered", García Vargas stated that, in principle, it is "interpreted" simply that whoever buried him would have "died" without first having collected all that wealth.

To this end, García Vargas stressed that these coins constitute a great "testimony of a very conflictive time" of the Roman Empire, as well as "a portrait of the true circulation of bronze" in that period, given the "significant amount" of coins contained. in the amphoras and the possibilities that the investigation of them throws up.

The potential of this “treasure” as a statistical source of aspects such as “the rate of minting” of coins in ancient Rome or “how money circulated”, according to this professor of Archeology, thus encourages us to “continue studying” this precious loot about the one that still weighs scientific "problems" to solve.

And it is that as García Vargas warned, with nine amphorae still closed and its bronze coins pending examination and investigation, the chronology of the treasure could be altered if any such coins were dated from a date after the year 312, for example.

It is not ruled out, thus, that this "Exceptional treasure" of 53,000 Roman coins of bronze still hide new surprises, raise more unknowns and continue to awaken as much interest and expectation as it has harvested up to now.

Images: Junta de Andalucía

Europa Press journalist, collaborator of "Sevillanos de Guardia" in Onda Cero Radio and collaborator writer in MRN Aljarafe.

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