Up to 50,000 Roman coins discovered off coast of Sardinia | Archaeology

An Italian diver’s sighting of something metallic near the coast of Sardinia has led to the discovery of tens of thousands of Roman bronze coins, Italy’s culture ministry has said.

After the man alerted the authorities, divers from an art protection squad and the ministry’s undersea archaeology department were sent to investigate. The coins, which date back to the first half of the fourth century, were found among sea grass not far from the north-east shore of the Mediterranean island.

The exact date of the initial sighting has not been disclosed by the ministry, but it was near the town of Arzachena. The number of coins retrieved so far is still being determined as they are now being sorted. It is estimated that there are at least 30,000 coins, and possibly as many as 50,000.

The ancient Roman coins recovered are called follis, a bronze coin introduced around 294 AD with the monetary reform of the former Roman emperor Diocletian.

Remarkably, all the coins are in an exceptional and rare state of preservation. Even the few coins that were damaged still have legible inscriptions, according to the ministry.

Divers from an art protection squad and the culture ministry’s undersea archaeology department retrieved the coins. Photograph: Italian Ministry of Culture

Luigi La Rocca, an official from Sardinia’s archaeology department, hailed the find as one of the most significant coin discoveries in recent times.

He said it is further evidence of the wealth and importance of the archaeological heritage preserved beneath the seabed.

The majority of the coins were found in a sandy area between the underwater seagrass and the beach, suggesting the presence of nearby shipwrecks, according to the ministry.

A similar discovery was made in Devon in the UK in 2013, when 22,888 follis emerged from the depths. This exceptional treasure of coins was found by Laurence Egerton just a few hundred metres away from the site of a Roman villa and a military fortification dating back to the second to third centuries.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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