Ancient Roman coins discovered in early 14th century era Japanese castle in Okinawa

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Japanese archaeologists have announced that they had unearthed ancient Roman coins at the ruins of the medieval Katsuren castle in Okinawa. Suffice it to say, this is very first time that ancient Roman objects have been discovered in ‘faraway’ Japan – thus alluding to a really odd scope where archaeological evidence clashes with conventional historicity. In any case, the coins in question here pertain to ten copper and bronze specimens, and the oldest ones among them date from around 300 – 400 AD, which corresponds to the late Roman empire period.

This is what archaeologist and professor at the Okinawa International University, Hiroki Miyagi had to say about the fascinating find (to AFP) –

At first I thought they were one cent coins dropped by US soldiers. But after washing them in water I realized they were much older. I was really shocked.

Now since we are talking about historicity, the Katsuren Castle (Kacchin Gushiku) was originally built on a large limestone hill, with its two sides facing the Pacific Ocean. As for its previous archaeological record, the castle, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, was home to exquisite tile works and Chinese porcelain, all dating from the contemporary 15th century. And by the next century, the fortress was probably abandoned, in spite of its strategic location that allowed it to function as a trading post that facilitated trade between Japan, Korea, China, and Southeast Asia.

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As for the context of this incredible discovery, a team of archaeologists have been conducting their excavation project at the castle site since 2013. And analysis of these coins by X-ray assessment revealed that some of the specimens were embossed with Roman letters and possibly the image of Emperor Constantine I, accompanied by a spear-armed soldier. Interestingly enough, the researchers have also found other types of coins, with few having their origins in 17th century Ottoman Empire.

This bizarre scope naturally brings up the question – how did ancient Roman coins turn up in a medieval Japanese castle. Unfortunately, the archaeologists are as clueless as the rest of us, especially since the feudal lords residing in the Katsuren Castle were not known to have any European business ties (though they were involved in regional trade networks). Miyagi added –

East Asian merchants in the 14 and 15th centuries mainly used Chinese currency, a round coin with a square hole in the middle, so it is unlikely that the Western coins were used as a means of currency. I believe they probably got the [Roman] coins in Southeast Asia or China.

Via: Seeker (Discovery News) / Images Credit: Kyodo

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  • Alexandra Oon

    Silk would have travelled across land and surely, as Roman and other nationalities dealt in the luxury, they could have come across via the Silk Route. If Marco Polo could travel that way what would stop ships from Near East sailing round as well.

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