When in Japan: Ancient Roman Empire Coins Found in Katsuren Castle

The recent discovery of Ancient Roman coins in the ruins of Katsuren Castle in Okinawa may help find links between ancient Rome and Japan.

Just how much treasure do you reckon is buried, forgotten, undocumented, and perhaps yet to be discovered in the depths of Mother Earth? We aren’t talking about petroleum, coal, or gold, but of human-made treasure that was somehow was hidden and forgotten. In Japan, four coins that have an image of the Roman Emperor Constantine have been dug up by archeologists and X-ray processing. Additionally, six other coins suspected to be from the Ottoman Empire have been discovered in Japan as well.

While the six coins date back to the more recent 17th century, the four coins are ancient, dating as far back as 400 AD. Now that is old! What archeologist Hiroyuki Miyagi thought was a hoax turned out to be true. After all, who would have thought that the ruins of Katsuren Castle in Okinawa Japan could yield such a treasure? What’s even better is that though heavily corroded and eroded, modern technology has helped accurately authenticate these coins as genuine Ancient Roman coins.

It Was All By Chance

A lot of the time, good things happen unexpectedly – case in point, the discovery of these coins. With permission from the Board of Education of Uruma, archeologists and their teams have been working on the site for three years. Toshio Tsukamoto, a researcher with the Cultural Properties Department of the Gangoji Temple, was traveling from Nara and spent some time at Katsuren Castle. With his experience finding Ancient Roman coins in archaeological sites in Egypt, he was able to identify the potential of this find being a significant one.

According to historians, there are no direct links between Japan and the Roman Empire, but the ancient coins must have arrived somehow. Because the Roman Empire extended over many countries in Asia, there’s the possibility that these coins came to Japan from anywhere in the Asian region. Speculation points towards Western Asia, as the Roman Empire had a strong presence in the area and since international trade was prolific in those days, there’s a strong possibility that the ancient coins made their way to Japan by way of different trade routes.

Tests will be carried out to determine how the coins arrived at the castle. This will be done by attempting to correlate the recently discovered coins with other artifacts that have been dug up at the same castle ruins. For example, many Chinese artifacts such as ceramics and coins have been discovered in the castle, dating as far back as the 8th Century, all which will be further analyzed and compared. In addition to other artifacts of items that must have been used in the castle, Japanese ceramics have been found in the ruins.

Ancient Roman Coins Discovered in Other Parts of Asia

Ancient Rome had a significant presence around the world. Thus, many coins have been discovered in different parts of the world, including North Africa. While the Roman Empire was driven primarily by agriculture and slavery, they also relied heavily on trade. As a result, their coins were used on various trade routes. Tunisia and Egypt were the main shipment areas for grain to Rome, while other places such as China would export silk. India would export spices and regions in Africa would export ivory and slaves to the Rome.

Ancient Roman coins have been found in India, Turkey, and China. However, the coins found recently in Japan are an important historical find and could be the key for archeologists to find the link between Japan and Ancient Rome.

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