A diver who spotted the glint of something metallic in the water not far from the coast of Sardinia has led to the discovery of tens of thousands of Roman bronze coins in an area where there may once have been an ancient shipwreck.
Italy’s culture ministry said Saturday that the diver alerted authorities, who sent divers assigned to an art protection squad along with others from the ministry’s undersea archaeology department.
The coins dating from the first half of the fourth century were found in sea grass, not far from the northeast shore of the Mediterranean island, in the sea of Arzachena. The coins are in an exceptional and rare state of preservation.
The chronological context of the coins can be found in a time span between 324 AD (coinage of Licinius) and 340 AD.
The ministry didn’t say exactly when the first diver caught a glimpse of something metallic just off shore, not far from the town of Arzachena.
Exactly how many coins have been retrieved hasn’t been determined yet, as they are being sorted. A ministry statement estimated that there are at least about 30,000 and possibly as many as 50,000, given their collective weight.
“All the coins were in an excellent and rare state of preservation,” the ministry said. The few coins that were damaged still had legible inscriptions, it said.
“The treasure found in the waters off Arzachena represent one of the most important coin discoveries,” in recent years, said Luigi La Rocca, a Sardinian archaeology department official.
La Rocca added in a statement that the find is “further evidence of the richness and importance of the archaeological heritage that the seabed of our seas, crossed by men and goods from the most ancient of epochs, still keep and preserve.”
Firefighter divers and border police divers were also involved in locating and retrieving the coins.
The coins were mainly found in a wide area of sand between the underwater seagrass and the beach, the ministry said. Given the location and shape of the seabed, there could be remains of ship wreckage nearby, the ministry said.