Coins and votive offerings found at sanctuary

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Bart9349, Aug 8, 2022.

  1. Bart9349

    Bart9349 Junior Member


    Here are some nice coins and votive offerings found at the sacred Roman healing sanctuary in the Tuscan hill town of San Casciano dei Bagni, famous even today for its hot springs.

    “Hundreds of gold, silver, orichalcum, and bronze coins, a bronze putto, a marble relief of a bull’s head, five bronze votive figurines, miniature lamps, a bronze foil belt, and other religious offerings were found during excavations this summer in San Casciano Dei Bagni, establishing the baths as a particularly rich religious sanctuary beyond their significance as a thermal resort.“

    Some excavated coins from Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius:


    C435DD39-AE4D-4A15-9B2B-11B097B83FBE.png 76E5AEC0-9C26-4B16-8687-2BF4EF884F24.png F3424AD6-C351-438D-9B94-86193B258122.png
    Probable votive offering of an ear

    A marble statue of Hygeia, deity of health and daughter of Asclepius, the healing god, discovered at the site.
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  3. Cherd

    Cherd Junior Member Supporter

    Well..... Now we know why Covid happened.

    Maybe stealing Hygeia's coin offerings was not such a great idea!
  4. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Oh, wow, those photos made my pulse rate go up!

    The preservation of those orichalcum pieces is unbelievable. Almost literally. I almost would have suspected a staged photo, but upon reflection, I don't think it is.
    rrdenarius, Struck7, cmezner and 2 others like this.
  5. Curtis

    Curtis Supporter! Supporter

    Yeah, that's my first thought. I don't remember ever seeing freshly excavated coins looking like that. Maybe they had been quickly washed in some kind of acidic solution or cleaned with electrolysis right on sight? (I think it's not unusual for archaeologists, at least in some contexts, to try to quickly strip the coins to bare metal [though I don't think I've heard of doing electro in the field], since the primary concern is with identification, not aesthetics.)

    The only times I have heard of brass/orichalcum coins coming up like that is when they were submerged in water, which does look plausible here. But usually you only see a golden brassy color to those, not the original reddish surfaces on copper coins.

    I'm definitely curious what's going on there.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2022
  6. Oldhoopster

    Oldhoopster Member of the ANA since 1982

    Did you notice the mud on the fingers in the pic?

    IF that is the mud at the bottom of the hot springs, it looks viscous enough to protect the coins in an anaerobic environment. Pure speculation on my part, but seems plausible at first glance
    rrdenarius, cmezner, Curtis and 2 others like this.
  7. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I’ve NEVER seen copper in it’s original reddish state. I have only seen one sestertius in its original color, and that was after I dunked it in sodium thiosulfate and vinegar to remove the top layer of heavy oxidation.
    cmezner and Curtis like this.
  8. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Yes, the mud is what did make me come around to finding it plausible after all.
  9. Curtis

    Curtis Supporter! Supporter

    Yeah, that's what I meant about the water / being plausible (under water in the mud). I'm not sure why I've only even seen it with brass/orichalcum and not copper ones though. (As in "Tiber patina" or "riverine patina," as it's sometimes called.)

    I'm curious what the context is. If that mud/water is permanent.

    If it's a "healing spring" with minerals, maybe the coins had been thrown into the bottom of a pool. I wonder if those were deposited one at a time or a few large offerings... The description sounds more like one at a time. Maybe like throwing a coin in a fountain today.
    lordmarcovan likes this.
  10. Treashunt

    Treashunt The Other Frank


    I'd love to metal detect the area.

    But, I'd probably be arrested
  11. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Not “probably”. ;)

    (Yeah, me too.)
  12. Collecting Nut

    Collecting Nut Borderline Hoarder

    Nice write up and it’s unbelievable how good a condition those coins are in. Must be the hot springs.
  13. Cherd

    Cherd Junior Member Supporter

    It is possible for an environment to be created where oxidation/corrosion would not occur. For instance, if the surrounding groundwater were anoxic (lacking oxygen) while also, for some reason, lacking in microbes that would cause anaerobic corrosion (metabolic oxidation), then the coins would remain basically unchanged.

    I'd find it hard to believe that this type of environment would occur in the wild to an extent that would allow the coins to be maintained in that type of state for thousands of years, but I guess it is a possibility. Maybe it would have something to do with some unique local chemistry associated with the hot springs?
  14. Collecting Nut

    Collecting Nut Borderline Hoarder

    The only way I know would be to put the coins in a vacuum environment.
  15. ArtDeco

    ArtDeco Well-Known Member

    Some of those Sestertii look great!
  16. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    There are some really good anoxic lakes and seas bottoms where things get preserved just about forever.
    Curtis likes this.
  17. Collecting Nut

    Collecting Nut Borderline Hoarder

    Anything inside leather in the ocean will pretty much be preserved well. The critters that destroy things like paper money will not touch it in a leather wallet. Something to do with the tanning process makes it taste terrible so they avoid it.
  18. Bart9349

    Bart9349 Junior Member

    Here’s an article that might yield further insights into the find and the stunning preservation of the coins:

    San Casciano is a geothermal hub with forty hot springs, six connected to the thermal sanctuary. The Etruscan picked this location to utilize the therapeutic power of the water's chemical properties -- it is rich in minerals such as calcium and magnesium, as well as chloride and sulfates.

    San Casciano's ancient thermal baths functioned like a hospital clinic, with visitors seeking respite from respiratory problems or aching bones. For many, a float in the waters reduced their pain, so after their bath they'd throw offerings to the gods into the bubbly pools giving thanks for being healed. These included tree branches, scented pine cones and fruits such as peaches -- which have been recovered in well-preserved states thanks to the layers of mud the site has since been covered by.

    The number of coins of bronze, silver and orichalcum -- a precious metal believed by the Romans to have mystical powers -- found in the big bath is also extraordinary, said Tabolli. It is the largest collection of ancient currency associated with hot springs in the Mediterranean, and unique also for their perfect state of preservation. The coins have retained their original coloring both thanks to the water's chemical properties and due to being blanketed by mud, which prevented oxidation.
    "They're still shiny brown and shiny yellow -- such bright colors have never been found in any excavation site," said Tabolli. "It's a miracle."
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