One of the exciting things about collecting coins is how they frequently travel around the world and can be found in unexpected places.
This was the case in two instances that recently made news in their respective locales. One involved a veritable treasure trove of ancient Asian coins found in South Dakota's Chinatown district, while—more surprisingly—another inverse scenario placed a group of coins from Ancient Rome in Okinawa, Japan.
Deadwood, South Dakota
Over a period of four summers from 2001 to 2004, a group of 40 archaeologists began excavating the historical Chinatown of Deadwood, SD. This small town was founded in the middle of the 19th century, but this effort has uncovered coins and relics that date back nearly 1,000 years! They represent the oldest coins ever found in the state.
The researchers found over 200 coins from the Far East, particularly from China and Vietnam. Some of these Chinese coins were of the type that had square or round holes in the middle. This tradition is believed to have allowed Chinese merchants and traders to conveniently carry many coins on a string or stick.
Margie Akin, who is publishing a numismatic book with her husband about the Asian coins found in Deadwood, believes these historic cultural artifacts offer excitement to both coin collectors and academics. “Understanding the setting in which they were found is extremely important and we’ve been working hard to get archeologists and collectors to work together rather than competitively, because we can learn a lot from each other,” she said.
On the other side of the word, the ruins of the medieval Katsuren Castle in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture yielded a shocking discovery: copper coins minted in Ancient Rome. Although these coins have heavy abrasions, x-ray analysis revealed the image of the famous Roman emperor, Constantine the Great. These coins date to the fourth century CE.
In addition to being a genuinely exciting numismatic find, this discovery opens up questions about how extensively Japan may have traded with the West and its other neighbors during medieval times. Although Japanese contact with East Asia has long been known, it has also been assumed that it knew little of the Western world while Japan was a largely isolationist society prior to the late 19th century.
According to the local board of education, the coins will be on display at the Uruma City Yonagusuku Historical Museum in central Okinawa through November 25th.
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