Archaeologists puzzled by an ‘unclaimed’ 1,500-year old treasure hoard in Corinth

unclaimed-1500-year-treasure-hoard_3Credit: Michael Ierardi

Ancient Corinth was one of the most powerful and important of the Greek city-states, with the settlement itself possibly boasting a population of over 90,000 by the end of 5th century BC. Interestingly enough, while the city with its strategic harbor was destroyed during the interlude of the Roman Republic, it was Julius Caesar who ‘re-founded’ Colonia Laus Iulia Corinthiensis (‘colony of Corinth in honor of Julius’) in circa 44 BC, thus leading to Corinth’s subsequent revival as the provincial capital of Achaia. And now, archaeologists are perplexed by a mysterious treasure trove found in Roman Corinth. Possibly dating back to circa 4th-5th century AD, the hoard in question comprises around 119 bronze coins and an iron lock – both of which have been found inside the ruins of a collapsed building.

The puzzling part about this trove relates to how nobody actually came to retrieve the treasure even after the ancient building collapsed. Furthermore, archaeologists have also found no human remains in the vicinity, thus ruling out the scenarios of fatal accidents or traps. As Paul Scotton, a professor of classics at California State University Long Beach who headed the excavation project for the Lechaion Harbor and Settlement Land Project (in Corinth), said –

That is an excellent question and one that has been troubling us. The coins were found circa 30-40 centimeters [12 to 16 inches] below modern ground level under the collapsed tile roof. With it having been so close to the surface, why someone didn’t return for it is a puzzle. Either the owner could not or did not want to retrieve it. Exactly why that would be is only conjecture.


Credit: Michael Ierardi

The collapsed building in itself was located near what was possibly a large workshop facility, as could be deduced from the remains of iron slag, unworked iron, cooked animal bone, and a concrete basin – all found by the archeologists inside the ancient structure. As for the coins, many of the specimens were already found in 2016, and some of them are yet to be cleaned and preserved.

Coming to the historicity of the coins of this mysterious hoard, the earliest of the specimens date from the reign of Constantine the Great (circa 306-337 AD), while the most recent ones date from the period coinciding to the rule of Anastasius I Dicorus (491-518 AD). It should be noted that the latter was known for his various accomplishments when it came to improving the economy of the Eastern Roman realm, including tax reforms and the introduction of new currency.

Lastly, as for the current status of the excavations and analysis being conducted at the Corinth site, according to Live Science

Research into the hoard is ongoing. The Lechaion Harbor and Settlement Land Project, co-directed by Constantinos Kissas, is a cooperative effort between the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Corinthian Ephorate of Antiquities. That cooperative is working with a team of scholars and students from several universities.

A group of scholars with the project presented a paper on this discovery and others from the Lechaion in January at the joint annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America and the Society for Classical Studies held in Boston.


Credit: Michael Ierardi

Source: Live Science