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[Note: there may be inaccuracies in this English translation of a Spanish article. Hyperlinks and embedded photos at linked website article.]


'Filomena' and a badger joined forces to find an archaeological treasure
Researchers believe that a mustelid unearthed in a cave in Asturias the largest set of Roman coins in northern Spain, which several experts describe as "exceptional"

Madrid- 07 JAN 2022 - 05:15
Updated:08 JAN 2022 - 14:33 CET

Three archaeologists work in the place where the Asturian-Roman treasure of La Cuesta de Berció (Asturias) has been found.

The winter of 2021 was cruelly harsh on the Iberian Peninsula. The storm Filomena had covered much of Spain with snow, making it extremely difficult for the badger to find berries, worms or small invertebrates to eat. It then came out of its burrow inside the cave of La Cuesta ( Berció, Grado, Asturias) to dig and put its legs in a small crack open next to its shelter. He found nothing to feed on, just a set of metal parts. They were hard and cold, so he abandoned some in front of his lair. Shortly after, Roberto García, a resident of the area, and two archaeologists who were visiting the cave found the result of the desperate excavation of the mustelid, according to their main hypothesis. On April 5 of last year, the research work began with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Principality of Asturias. The report The late Roman treasure of the cave of La Cuesta de Berció (Grado, Asturias). First assessments in its Cantabrian contextreveals what the little omnivorous tasugo actually found: the largest treasure trove of Roman coins in northern Spain in a cave. A total of 209 pieces, from between the 3rd and 5th centuries d. C, some from the distant mints of London or Antioch, which someone hid in the cave before the imminent arrival of the Suebi, a Germanic people who invaded the Peninsula in 409 from the frozen waters of the Rhine.

He points to the report by the experts Alfonso Fanjul Peraza , Alberto Ceballos Hornero , Antonio Juaneda Gavelas, Emilio Muñoz Fernández, Roberto García Flórez and Carmen Llamosas San Miguel, and which has just been published by the Prehistory and Archeology Notebooks of the Autonomous University of Madrid, that the Berció cavity juts 16 meters into a wall of the Nalón river. This hollow, which is accessed by a very steep clay slope covered with forest, "was always harassed by the so-called ayalgueros or treasure hunters, who were looking for what has been known since the 18th century as the grotto of a barbarian king named Godulfo " , monarch who reigned only in the popular imagination.

The specialists believe that the pieces found next to the burrow are only “a secondary deposit, coming from a larger deposit of pieces, now non-existent, of which a part fell through a sink crack to the ground. They were, therefore, in a narrow natural vertical pool that, emptied in its lower section by the animal, had removed part of the deposit from the entrance of the burrow, leaving more pieces in the deep part ”.

The sink has a depth of about 40 centimeters. When excavating it, the archaeologists unearthed more coins, up to a total of 209. Its chronology ranges from the middle of the third century to a piece minted in the time of Valentinian III, in the year 430. "This time frame allows us", says Alfonso Fanjul, “date the deposit, for the moment, and in the absence of new excavations inside and outside the cavity, in the second half of the V century AD. C. An interesting moment of the Swabian expansion in the peninsular northwest, being the area of ​​Grado a limit area of ​​the Asturian-Roman territory”.

Roman coins found in La Cuesta de Berció (Asturias).

In the thirties of the last century, also in the valley of Grado, the so-called treasure of Chapipi was found, 14 gold coins from the time of Constantine (he reigned between 306 and 337), as well as a ring of the same material. "This accumulation of important findings, being prudent, could respond to that context of intense conflict in a border territory," adds Fanjul. That is, and as happened in other parts of the Peninsula and in different centuries, when the invader or the enemy approached, the owners of the coins hid them in the most unsuspected places so that, once the danger had passed, they could be recovered. But they didn't always succeed.

The set unearthed by the badger is very worn, “except in the highest quality issues, such as oriental productions, and exceptionally one of the three follis found [coin from Ancient Rome introduced around 294 by Emperor Diocletian ] . It is a piece of bronze, weighing between eight and 10 grams, with an approximate 4% silver, which comes from the London mint ". The rest of the coins, except three, are centennial, the smallest of the empire. They come from mints in Antioch, Constantinople, Thessalonica, Arles, Lyon, Rome or the Adriatic. Everything excavated is currently being subjected to a cleaning process in the Archaeological Museum of Asturias .

The report adds that the deposit of rescued pieces is, however, a small part of “a much larger monetary group, now disappeared, as evidenced by the finding of several coins in different areas of the cavity. Its accumulated location in the sink is due to abandonment, natural erosion or livestock use.

Two archaeologists work directly in the hole dug by the badger in La Cuesta de Berció, in Asturias.

The archaeologists announce that the number of coins in the cave may be even higher, since they have only carried out the first phase of the emergency rescue. In fact, in the absence of laboratory tests, they can only assure that the treasure was hidden in the middle of the 5th century, although it could be a couple of centuries later. If it were from the 5th century, they are clear that it was hidden in “a context of political instability due to the Swabian expansion in the western half of present-day Asturias, where the territory between the Nalón River and the Narcea seems to constitute a border space between the power Suevo and Astur-Roman society. Be that as it may, the amount of coins recovered, as well as the undoubted archaeological interest of the moment of transition to the early medieval genesis, make the treasure discovered in Berció an exceptional find ”. Even if,For now, only the badger can tell where the rest of the treasure is.

Vicente G. Olaya
Editor of EL PAÍS specialized in Archaeology, Cultural Heritage and History. He has developed his professional career on Antena 3, RNE, Cadena SER, Onda Madrid and EL PAÍS. He has a degree in Journalism from the CEU-San Pablo University.
Posts: 6329 | Location: the Centennial state | Registered: August 21, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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PETA should sue Spain as representatives of the animal kingdom in Spain, claiming rightful ownership belongs to Hispanico Mustelidios.

Yeah its a stretch but they earned it battling salvage operators over gold they lost and not respecting existing maritime law.
Posts: 157 | Registered: December 14, 2021Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Get my pies
outta the oven!

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I wonder why the original owner never went back to retrieve them, maybe was massacred by the invaders he was hiding them from?

Posts: 29070 | Location: Pennsylvania | Registered: November 12, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Nosce te ipsum
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The only way to find everything buried over the past 50,000 years is to allow vampires to again flourish and roam.

I'd like to own rough country outside the Sierra Nevada foothills; find a few rusted cans of clean, uncirculated, mint condition 1860s gold coins.
Present location. Tiburon, California. The Saddle Ridge Hoard is the name given to identify a treasure trove of 1,427 gold coins unearthed in the Gold Country of the Sierra Nevada, California in 2013. The face value of the coins totaled $27,980, but was assessed to be worth $10 million.
Posts: 8741 | Location: Mid-Atlantic Region | Registered: March 24, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Truffle finding pigs. Gold finding badgers. Cool. Smile

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - B.Franklin
"Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it." L.Tolstoy
Posts: 10426 | Location: In the gilded cage | Registered: December 09, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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