At least ten ancient coins from thousands of miles away were recently found by archaeologists conducting excavations at the Katsuren castle on Okinawa, which is one of the islands of the Japanese archipelago. Five of the coins are believed to be Roman, while another is from the Ottoman empire. Archeologist Hiroyuki Miyagi was at first incredulous upon hearing reports of the coins at Katsuren castle, He said, "I thought that they were replicas that had been dropped there by tourists." Is a member of the faculty of Okinawa International University.
Roman coin found in Okinawa
It has been since 2013 that archaeologists engaged by the board of education of the city of Uruma have been conducting the dig at Katsuren castle, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was a researcher from the Gangoji temple cultural properties department, Toshio Tsukamoto, who saw them when he came from Nara to the castle. The discovered was announced on September 26. "I'd come to analyze artifacts like Japanese samurai armor that had been found there when I spotted the coins," Tsukamoto, told CNN.
Tsukamoto said that because of his experience of seeing Roman coins at archaeological sites in Egypt and Italy, he was able to recognize the ancient coins at Katsuren castle immediately. Researcher Miyagi subjected the coins to an x-ray examination, revealing the imprint of the mints that produced them thousands of years ago.
Miyagi determined that the Ottoman coin could be dated to 1687, based on its inscriptions. However, the Roman coins are much older and are from at least 300 to 400 AD. Turks overwhelmed Constantinople in 1453 A.D. and founded their capital there, turning the world's most magnificent church into a mosque and creating an Islamic empire that would last for nearly 500 years. Trade with Asia continued during that period.
Masaki Yokou, speaking for the Uruma board of education, said it is hard to know where the coins came from or how they made their way to Okinawa. Yokou said it is a "strange and interesting find." Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost island, is not entirely isolated from the rest of the world and thus would have been part of a wider nexus of trade. Katsuren castle had trade relations with China, for example, and other neighboring Asian countries in the 14th and 15th centuries AD.
However, Yokou said, "We don't think that there is a direct link between the Roman empire and Katsuren castle, but the discovery confirms how this region had trade relations with the rest of Asia."
Ottoman coin found on Okinawa
Experts say that the coins may have found their way to Japan after passing through many hands along various trade routes that connected Europe and Anatolia to Asia. The so-called Silk Road, for example, brought silk fabric and spices from the Far East to the Roman Empire. It was thus that trade between China, India, and Persia, on one hand, and Europe on the other flourished for centuries. Researcher Miyagi called the discovery "remarkable." Experts hope to find more clues about how the coins came to Japan.
Emperor Constantine founded the new capital of the Roman empire at Byzantium, in what is now modern-day Turkey, during the first quarter of the 4th century A.D. Christianity was allowed to flourish under his regime and it was from this and later periods that the Roman coins at Katsuren come.
Archaeologists also found at the Katsuren site Japanese ceramics and other artifacts used by the denizens of the castle. Chinese coins and trade ceramics were also discovered.