A rather plucky badger appears to have uncovered a trove of over 200 Roman-era coins in Northwestern Spain, according to archaeologists. The find is the largest collection of such coins ever discovered in northern Spain, meaning the unlikely archaeologist certainly earned his stripes.
The “exceptional find” was discovered in April 2021, described in the Journal of Prehistory and Archaeology. The coins date back to between the 3rd and 5th century CE, found close to the badger’s sett and in the nearby La Cuesta cave in the Asturias region of northern Spain.
It is believed the badger unearthed the 209 coins as it searched for food during a particularly harsh winter. In January 2021, snowstorm Filomena blanketed Spain in a record amount of snow.
In lieu of their usual worms, insects, and berries, animals were forced to get resourceful when it came to sourcing a meal – and, it seems, one unfortunate badger went looking in a local cave, stumbling not upon a delicious meal, but some decidedly less delicious metal disks.
The search may have been fruitless for the hungry badger, but not for two archaeologists and one local resident who later happened upon its discarded treasure.
“On the surface of the cave… in the sand possibly extracted by a badger, at the foot of its burrow, we found the coins, with more pieces inside,” they write in the paper.
The coins themselves are “mainly from the north and eastern Mediterranean, forming a line from Antioch, Constantinople [modern day Istanbul, Turkey], Thessaloniki”. However, one coin appears to have originated in London. The authors believe these 209 coins to be part of a larger set, which has now disappeared.
As to how they came to be in a cave in northern Spain, the authors speculate they were moved – perhaps even hidden – there, “in times of instability for fear of theft or attacks”. They also suggest that such caves could have served as a sort of ancient bank account, into which people could deposit money and make withdrawals.
In the 5th century, the western part of the Asturias was invaded by the Suebians – Germanic people originating from what is now Germany and the Czech Republic – which could perhaps explain the “political instability” that would lead someone to hide their fortune in a cave.
“Be that as it may, the amount of coins recovered, as well as the undoubted archaeological interest of the transition to the early medieval genesis, make the treasure discovered in Berció an exceptional find,” the authors conclude.
Not bad for a hungry badger in search of a meal.