Researchers have authenticated a hoard of gold coins once thought to be fake, saying the artifact reveals a long-lost Roman emperor.
The coins bear the name and image of a mysterious historical figure, the sponsor, whose existence was previously questioned by experts who suggested the coins were the work of seasoned 18th-century con artists.
But a scholarly analysis concluded that the coins are genuine third-century artifacts, and researchers contend that the patron emperor was also the real deal.
Professor Paul Pearson, from University College London, who led the research, said: “We are absolutely confident that they are authentic.” “Our evidence indicates that the Roman guaranty ruled Dacia, an isolated gold-mining outpost, at a time when the empire was besieged by civil wars and the frontier lands were overrun by plundering invaders.”
The hoard of coins is said to have been discovered in Transylvania, in modern-day Romania, in 1713. It depicts several recognized Roman emperors of the 3rd century, including Gordian III and Philip the Arab. But four coins bear the name and image of the sponsor, which does not appear in any other historical records.
When the coins were discovered, they were initially thought to be genuine. But since the mid-nineteenth century, attitudes have changed due to the coins’ crude designs and mixed inscriptions. One expert has suggested that it is the work of a sophisticated Viennese con artist who invented an emperor to appeal to collectors, and this has become the prevailing view.
Pearson, an earthscientist, learned about coins and the “false emperor” while researching a book on Roman history as a closing project. He began correspondence with Jesper Ericsson, curator of numismatics at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, who had a coin in his collection, and the pair decided to do a full scientific analysis.
This showed that, based on their weight in gold, the coins are valuable – the set would be worth $20,000 (£16,700) in modern terms. “If it’s fake, that’s a big expense to begin with,” Pearson said.
When examined at high magnification using optical imaging and electron microscopy, the coins showed similar patterns of wear and tear to the original coins, indicating that they had been in circulation for several years. The minerals on the surface of the coins were consistent with their long burial, and the scientists discovered sulfate crystals, which typically form when the body is deprived of oxygen for a long time and then re-exposed to air.
“I think we’ve established with a very high degree of confidence that it’s authentic,” Pearson said, adding that the question of the sponsor’s identity was “more speculative.”
It is known that the region of Dacia was isolated from the central command during the period of military conflict in 260 AD. The two writers were two military leaders who assumed power over the Roman enclave and established local coinage, the authors write in PLOS ONE.
“He assumed the title of emperor—the supreme military commander—that was reserved for the emperor,” Pearson said. There are other precedents for regional emperors. If we allow Roman emperors to define themselves, he will be a Roman emperor.”
Dr Adrastos Omici, of the University of Glasgow, who was not involved in the research, called the analysis “a remarkable piece of work”. “I think they made a really convincing argument for the existence of the guarantor and him being a real emperor,” he said, adding that the late third century was a period of upheaval and upheaval in which “the standard for being an emperor was very low.”
However, others were more skeptical. “They’ve gone full fantasy,” said Richard Abdi, curator of Roman and Iron Age coins at the British Museum. “It is circular evidence. They say because of the coin there is the person, and therefore the person must have made the coin.”
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