The winter of 2021 was cruelly harsh on the Iberian Peninsula. The storm Filomena It had covered much of Spain with snow, making it extremely difficult for the badger to find berries, worms, or small invertebrates to eat. He then emerged from his 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 in the cave of La Cuesta de Berció (Grado, Asturias). First assessments in its Cantabrian context reveals what the little omnivorous tasugo really 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.
Point out the experts’ report 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 Notebooks of Prehistory and Archeology 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 steep clay slope covered with forest, “was always harassed by the so-called ayalgueros or treasure hunters, who were looking for what since the 18th century has been known as the grotto of a barbarian king called Godulfo“, A monarch who only reigned 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 sump has a depth of about 40 centimeters. When excavating it, the archaeologists exhumed 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”, maintains Alfonso Fanjul, “to date the deposit, for the moment, and in the absence of new excavations inside and outside the cavity, in the second half of the 5th 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 ”.
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In the thirties of the last century, also in the valley of the Grado, the so-called Chapipi’s treasure, 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 emissions, such as oriental productions, and exceptionally one of the three follis found [moneda de la Antigua Roma introducida alrededor de 294 por el emperador Diocleciano]. 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 salvaged parts deposit is, however, a small part of “a much larger monetary set, now missing, as evidenced by having found several coins in different areas of the cavity. Its accumulated location in the sink is due to abandonment, natural erosion or livestock use ”.
The archaeologists announce that the number of coins in the cave may be even higher, as 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 ”. Although, at the moment, only the badger can know where the rest of the treasure is.