Coins issued in ancient Rome 1,700 years ago were found in Japan, some 6,000 miles from the Empire’s capital.
The coins were found at a site in Okinawa dug up at the site of Katsuren Castle. The castle was a magnificent stronghold, thriving between the 12th and 15th centuries. Numerous artefacts, precious tile and Chinese porcelain have been excavated from Katsuren from the 15th century, but this find is obviously much older.
The coins were damaged and deteriorated, but judging by the X-ray scans, the coins appear to depict Constantine I, also known as Constantine the Great. Reigning from 306 to 337 AD, Constantine ravaged through the eastern parts of the empire before he was recalled. But while he did venture to Asia, he never even got close to Japan. So then, how did the coins get there?
— GuideMe! Japan (@guideme_japan) September 26, 2016
There’s no clear answer for now, but they likely didn’t get there during the Roman time. They were unearthed with a coin from the 17th century Ottoman Empire, as well as five other round metallic items that also appear to be coins. So they likely belonged to a collector or were given as a gift to some local leader centuries after the Roman empire had fallen. But really, all we have now is suppositions – there’s not much to go on.
Still, the fact that Roman coins somehow found their way to Japan in the Middle Ages is stunning. If you’re in Japan and care to see the coins, they will be exhibited at Uruma City Yonagusuku Historical Museum in central Okinawa until Nov. 25.