A gold coin long dismissed as a forgery appears to be authentic and depicts a long-lost Roman emperor named a patron, according to a new UCL-led study.
The coin, which is in The Hunterian collection at the University of Glasgow, was among a handful of coins of a similar design discovered in Transylvania, in present-day Romania, in 1713. It has been considered a fake since the mid-1900s.The tenth– Horn, for its strange and exotic design features and jumbled inscriptions.
In the new study published in Plus onethe researchers compared the patronage coin to other Roman coins preserved in The Hunterian, including two that are known to be genuine.
They found minerals on the surface of the coin consistent with being buried in soil over a long period of time, then exposing it to air. These minerals were cemented into place by silica – a naturally occurring cement over a long period in the soil. The team also found a pattern of wear that indicated the coin was in active circulation.
Lead author Professor Paul N. It was plagued by civil wars and the borderlands were overrun by the plunder of the invaders.”
The Roman province of Dacia, a region straddled with modern Romania, was an area prized for its gold mines. Archaeological studies have established that the region was cut off from the rest of the Roman Empire around 260 AD. Surrounded by enemies, the patron was probably a local army officer who was forced to assume supreme command during a period of chaos and civil war, protecting the military and civilian population of Dacia until order was restored, and the province was evacuated between AD 271 and 275.
Coins have always been an important symbol of strength and power. Aware of this and unable to receive official issues from the Mint of Rome, the guarantor appears to have authorized the creation of locally produced coins, some showing an image of his face, to support a functioning economy in his isolated frontier province.
When coins were discovered in the early 18th century, they were believed to be authentic and classed alongside other imitations of Roman coins made outside the borders of the Empire. However, since the mid-nineteenth century, attitudes have changed. The coins from the hoard were dismissed as fakes due to their appearance. This has been the accepted view so far.
The new study is the first time a scientific analysis has been done on any of the sponsor coins. The research team used powerful microscopes in visible and ultraviolet light, as well as scanning electron microscopy and spectroscopy – to study how light at different wavelengths is absorbed or reflected – to study the surface of coins.
Only four coins bearing the sponsor’s name are known to have survived to this day, all of which apparently trace their origin to a hoard of 1713. Another is in the Brukenthal National Museum in Sibiu, Romania. High-magnification microscopic analysis carried out there, after researching the coin in The Hunterian, revealed similar evidence of authenticity.
Numismatist Jesper Ericsson, Curator of The Hunterian, said: “This has been a really exciting project for The Hunterian and we are delighted that our findings have inspired collaborative research with colleagues at the Museum in Romania. Not only do we hope this encourages further debate about the sponsor as a historical figure, but also the investigation of coins related to him that are in other museums across Europe.”
Interim Director of the Brukenthal National Museum Alexandru Constantin Cheto said: “For the history of Transylvania and Romania in particular, but also for the history of Europe in general, if these results are accepted by the scientific community they will mean the addition of another important historical figure in our history.
“It is wonderful for the Brukenthal National Museum, because the museum in Sibiu, Romania, is the only known holder of a coin belonging to a sponsor company from the territory of Romania. I would like to express my gratitude to the colleagues from the Brukenthal National Museum – the Altemberger House History Museum and especially to the leader of the scientific team, Professor Paul N. Pearson of the University of California, for their commitment, hard work and impressive results.”
Four gold coins analyzed by the researchers, including the Sponsor’s coin and other Roman coins previously dismissed as fakes, are on display at The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow, while the Sponsor’s coin is also on display in the Brukenthal National Museum to the public.