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Badger leads archeologists to secret stash of ancient coins

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This critter was just looking for a nosh, not ancient history. 

A hungry badger is believed to have helped uncover a stockpile of more than 200 Roman-era coins in a Spanish cave.

In a paper published last month by Madrid’s Autonomous University in the Journal of Prehistory and Archaeology, researchers credit the mammal with locating a large portion of the coins, which a man discovered near its nest. The man then brought the coins to the attention of researchers, who went on to uncover 209 coins dating to 200 to 400 AD at the location.

“We were shocked to find 90 coins just in the floor outside a nest of a badger,” archeologist Alfonso Fanjul, who led the dig for the coins, told USA Today. “We didn’t know how many could be underground or even if we could find more valuable objects.” 

How the coins came to be hidden in the cave remains a mystery.

Fanjul believes that refugees stashed them there. “We think it’s a reflection of the social and political instability which came along with the fall of Rome and the arrival of groups of barbarians to northern Spain,” he told CNN. He plans to continue excavating the area in search of more historic relics.

View of the excavation process.
Courtesy of Alfonso Fanjul Peraz

“We’ve taken out the first deposit, but we think there is a lot more to take out,” he said. “We think it’s an ideal site to learn more about the people that were living through this transition.”

Even if no more artifacts are found, the current badger-assisted discovery represents the largest Roman hoard to be recovered from a Spanish cave. 

“It’s a unique moment that you dream about from a young age,” Fanjul told CNN. “It’s an exceptional moment that you never think you will have as an archaeologist.”

Now that they’ve been found, the coins have a bright future. They’re being cleaned and prepared to be put on display at Spain’s Archaeological Museum of Asturias.

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



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