Badger leads archeologists to secret stash of ancient coins

This critter was just looking for food, not ancient history.

It is believed that a hungry badger helped uncover a stockpile of over 200 Roman-era coins in a Spanish cave.

In an article published last month by the Autonomous University of Madrid in the Journal of Prehistory and Archeology, researchers attribute the location of many of the pieces a man has found near its nest to the mammal. The man then brought the pieces to the attention of researchers, who found 209 pieces dating to AD 200-400 in the location.

“We were shocked to find 90 pieces just in the ground outside a badger’s nest,” archaeologist Alfonso Fanjul, who led the excavation for the pieces, told USA Today. “We didn’t know how many might be underground or even if we could find more valuable items.”

How the pieces were hidden in the cave remains a mystery.

Fanjul thinks the refugees hid them there. “We believe this is a reflection of the social and political instability that accompanied the fall of Rome and the arrival of barbarian groups in northern Spain,” he told CNN. He plans to continue excavating the area for more historical relics.

View of the excavation process.
Courtesy of Alfonso Fanjul Peraz

“We have withdrawn the first deposit, but we believe there is a lot more to withdraw,” he said. “We think it’s a great place to learn more about the people who were going through this transition.

Although no other artifacts are found, the current badger-assisted discovery represents the largest Roman treasure to be recovered from a Spanish cave.

“This is a unique moment that you have dreamed of from an early age,” Fanjul told CNN. “This is an exceptional time that you never think you will have as an archaeologist.”

Now that they have been found, the coins have a bright future. They are cleaned and prepared for display in the Spanish Archaeological Museum of Asturias.

badger cave roman coins
The dug pit.
Courtesy of Alfonso Fanjul Peraz

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