Amateur freedivers find gold treasure dating to the fall of the Roman Empire

After finding a few gold coins that date back to the fall the Western Roman Empire, freedivers in Spain reported the authorities
Amateur divers who were swimming along the Spanish coast discovered an enormous hoard of 1,500-year old gold coins. This is the largest known hoard dating back to the Roman Empire.

Csar Gimeno alcal and Luis Lens Pardo, their brothers-in-law, found the gold stash while on vacation in Xbia. Xbia is a tourist destination and coastal Mediterranean town. They rented snorkeling equipment to go freediving, with the intention of cleaning up the beach and beautifying the area. But Lens Pardo saw a gleaming coin at the bottom Portitxol Bay's Portitxol Bay on August 23, El Pas reported.

Lens Pardo explained to El Pas in Spanish that the coin was found "in a small hole like a bottleneck" when he went to investigate. Lens Pardo discovered that the coin had an "ancient image", much like a Greek or Roman face, after cleaning it. Intriguing, Lens Pardo, Gimeno Alcal, and Gimeno Alcal returned to the hole, freediving with a Swiss Army knife, and using its corkscrew, to uncover eight coins.

Similar: Photos: Roman-era coins and silver jewelry discovered in Scotland

The find left Lens Pardo and Gimeno alcal stunned. Lens Pardo stated that they took the eight coins found and placed them in a glass container with some seawater. Soon, a team of archaeologists, from the University of Alicante to the Soler Blasco Archaeological and Ethnological Museum and Spanish Civil Guard Special Underwater Brigade joined forces with the Town Council of Xbia to excavate and inspect the treasure.

The archaeologists discovered that the hole contained a large pile of at most 53 gold coins, dating back to the period when the Western Roman Empire was in decline. Each coin weighs approximately 0.1 ounces (4.5g).

According to a University of Alicante statement, the coins were so well preserved that archaeologists could read their inscriptions and identify Roman emperors. Three nails likely made from copper were also found in the hoard, along with the lead remains of what might have been a sea container that contained the riches.

Coins taken from an underwater hoard that was buried off the coast Spain. (Image credit to Xbia City Council; University of Alicante ).

Jaime Molina Vidal (UA professor of ancient history), researcher at University Institute of Archaeology and Historical Heritage at UA, and team leader who helped to recover the buried treasure said that the hoard was one of the most extensive known collections of Roman coins. Molina Vidal stated that the coins may also be a treasure trove for information and could shed light on the last phase of the Western Roman Empire. Live Science reported that the Roman Empire was split in two parts in A.D. 395. The Western Roman Empire had Rome as its capital and the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire had Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) as its capital.

These coins may have been hidden in the midst of the final stretch of the Western Roman Empire's power struggles. According to the statement, it was during this time that non-Roman barbarian tribes like the Germanic Suevi, Vandals, and Iranian Alans arrived in Hispania (the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula) and took control from the Romans in approximately 409.

One of the most important hoards of Roman coins in Europe is located off the coast of Spain. (Image credit to Xbia City Council, University of Alicante.

Molina Vidal stated that sets of gold coins were not common. He also said that Portitxol Bay was where ships departing from Rome's Iberian Provinces made their way to the Balearic Islands. This includes Ibiza and Mallorca, before heading to Rome. It's possible that the treasure was hidden from the barbarians by someone who has not yet been found by archaeologists, as archaeologists have not located any evidence of a sunken ship nearby, he suggested.

Molina Vidal stated, "The find speaks to our context of fear, a world that's ending the Roman Empire."

Similar: Mayday! Google Earth: 17 Mysterious Shipwrecks You Can See

Image 1 of 3. One of the coins found in the hoard dates back to the fourth or early fifth centuries. Image credit: Xbia City Council, University of Alicante. Image 2 of 3. Diving archaeologists surveyed and excavated the Spanish hoard of 1,500 years old while they were digging. Image credit: Xbia City Council, University of Alicante. Image 3 of 3. So far, divers have discovered 53 gold coins within the buried hoard. Image credit: Xbia City Council, University of Alicante.

A study of the coins has shown that the gold hoard belonged primarily to a wealthy landowner. This is because, in the fourth and fifth century, "the cities were in decline" and "power had shifted to large Roman villas, the countryside," Molina Vidal explained to El Pas.

He said, "Trade has been eliminated and the main sources of wealth have become agriculture and livestock." One of the landowners may have gathered the gold coins that did not circulate like regular money but were kept by their families as signs of wealth. They were then buried in a bay chest. Molina Vidal stated that he didn't return to retrieve the coins after he died.

After they have been fully examined, the coins will be displayed at the Blasco Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum (Xbia). The $20,800 ($17,800 Euros), allocated by the Valencian government for underwater archaeology excavations has been made in the area. This is in case there are any additional treasures. Portitxol Bay previously yielded many other discoveries, such as anchors, amphorae, ceramic vessels, ceramics, metal remains and artifacts related to ancient navigation.

Original publication on Live Science