At least 30,000 ancient coins were discovered off the northeastern shores of Sardinia, Italy’s culture ministry announced on Saturday.
The bronze coins dating from the first half of the fourth century were found nestled in the seagrass, a stone’s throw away from the Mediterranean island’s coast near the town of Arzachena.
The ministry has kept the timeline of the discovery discreet, mentioning only that the first sight of metal by the unnamed diver spurred a full-scale archaeological investigation.
Under the guidance of Italy’s art protection squad and the ministry’s undersea archaeology department, the seabed revealed its secrets—a vast spread of coins mainly across a sandy expanse between the seagrass and the beach. This area, intriguingly shaped and positioned, hints at the possibility of a shipwreck’s remnants lingering nearby.
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.
Find on Sardinia among the “most important coin discoveries”
“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 represents one of the most important coin discoveries,” in recent years, said Luigi La Rocca, a Sardinian archaeology department official, per Associated Press.
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.”
Firefighters, 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.
The investigation continues as the site, potentially one of the most significant numismatic finds in years, is explored further, promising to shed light on ancient maritime trade and the vast reach of the Roman Empire.
Sardinia was included for centuries in the Roman province of Sardinia and Corsica, which would be incorporated into the diocese of Italia suburbicaria in 3rd and 7th centuries.