A trove of ancient Roman treasure has been discovered on Spain's Costa Brava by a team of archaeology students. Two hundred silver denarii coins were found in an elaborate ceramic vase at the 2,500-year-old Empuries site.
The ruins of Empuries stand were an ancient town overlooking the sea, on Catalonia's coast, used to stand. The city was founded around 575BC by Greek settlers from Phocaea and was later occupied by Roman forces. However, in the early Middle Ages, it was abandoned because its coastal position made it too vulnerable to attacks.
The ancient site has been excavated since 1908 and has yielded a range of discoveries over the years, but as this treasure shows, it might still hide many surprises.
Treasure of silver coins
This time, digging at the site was carried out by a group of 30 students enrolled on the 70th Empuries Archaeology course – which is aimed at second-cycle university students studying a degree in archaeology or history, and at masters students, to get some hands-on excavation experience.
They worked in a house from the 1st century BC which had been excavated before, but focused on the cellar, where they found 24 amphorae – jars which would have been used to hold and serve wine. Alongside these objects were two bracelets and a slab of bronze which would have been used to extract the wine.
But the most exciting discovery was a ceramic vase in the same shape as the amphorae which contained the 200 ancient Roman silver coins known as silver denarii. Like the house in which they were found, they appear to date back to the 1st century BC.
Some historians estimate that the daily wage of a common soldier in the ancient Roman Empire was one denarius. An aureus, the basic gold monetary unit of the ancient Roman world was roughly equal to 25 silver denarii.
This treasure would thus have represented a significant amount of money for the time and it is unclear why the owner would have abandoned it. The young archaeologists speculate that the money would have been lost after the house suffered from a fire.
This year's Empuries Archaeology course ends on 23 July 2016, and now the team will be able to leave knowing it has greatly contributed to unveiling the secrets of the site.