Ancient Coin Identified

Before revealing the positive ID on that ancient coin I found a half-century ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which I also wrote about in Ancient American, Vol. 22, Issue 119, I really must commend that magazine as an excellent forum for dialog among independent researchers. Rather than the establishment authorities that I contacted (with no response), it was readers of Ancient American who told me what I’d found.

Among other responses with pieces of information, most explicit was the wonderful email from Steve Moore with a photograph of the same coin in fantastic shape:

Roman coin of Maximianus 298-299 AD

and an arcane collectors’ description: “Maximianus (298-299 AD) AE Follis, 9.92 grms, 28 mm,Ticinum mint; Obv.: IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG, Laureate head right.Rev.: GENIO POPV-LIROMANI, Genius naked.” Steve added that the genius is holding a “pater” (plate for offerings) in his right hand. Mystery solved; probably deposited in the early 4th century AD.

A few respondents wrote about who Maximianus was, namely the co-Emperor with Diocletian. A researcher on Roman history, Richard Stross noted that “Rome’s most severe persecution of Christianity was the Great Persecution of AD 303 to 313.” He felt it reasonable that persecuted Christians or supporters of losing political rivals might well have come to this continent. So do I.

I also found Stross’ other thoughts very informative. For instance, about artifact finds, he remarked: “Perishable materials such as wood, cloth, and leather would have rotted. Iron implements generally would have become unrecognizable masses of rust. A small expedition would not build stone buildings, and Romans generally did not use stone for small implements. Gold and silver were rare and expensive, so there would be very little if any on the expedition. The artifacts we would expect to find would be items of bronze, ceramics, or glass. The bronze items, in addition to coins, would be small common articles such as buckles and pins.”

But that’s not all. Stross adds an interesting perspective: “Except for coins, the small bronze artifacts may appear similar to modern scraps of metal. Artifacts of bronze may have been found, but not reported because they were not suspected of being ancient. Roman potshards may have been found, and ignored because they appeared to be broken pieces of modern ceramics. Even an intact cup, bowl, or jug may have appeared to be modern and therefore ignored. An exception would be the small ceramic oil lamps.”

And he knew of such an exception: “It appears that at least one oil lamp may have survived in America. I read a newspaper article in the 1980s of one that was discovered in Chillicothe, Ohio. It was buried several feet deep, so it was not lost recently; it was either lost in ancient times or was intentionally buried. It was examined by an expert, and verified as a genuine antiquity.” Several others have apparently been found…

Some respondents ventured to explain how my coin might have gotten into that flower bed in Ann Arbor. One fellow proposed: “At one time someone made the grand tour of Europe and either found it or bought it as a souvenir. Or perhaps a soldier in WWII found it while on his Tour of Duty over there. Either way, it simply got lost. This would also explain that hoard ‘found’ in 1993 as well as most of the rest.”

Recognizing his facile explanation as Chapter and Verse of the academic dogma, I noted that the site had been in an agricultural field until my house was built, so he quickly revised his scenario to a farmer out plowing who loses his watch-fob. Convenient. The well-trained fellow simply ignored my other note about mineral encrustation from centuries underground.

More charming, if even less credible, was one woman’s “half-cooked, caffeine-induced theory … that early French explorers venturing down into Michigan used the coins to trade with local Native Americans.” I don’t think so. Using Occam’s razor, I’d say my coin was most likely buried in the early 4th century in a small mound on that hilltop overlooking the Huron River.

As a matter of fact, Angelina Spencer wrote that: “I too, along with my brother, found similar coins near a plowed ‘hill’ outside of Monroeville, Ohio near our Huron River.” [She added an intriguing note touching on another important ancient mystery: “Some Firelands settlers accidentally dug up native burials back in the 1800’s (all sitting, facing West), but some were tall with Red hair (whether this is true or hyperbole I do not know). Copper armbands and black pearls were found as well as coins.”]

Some respondents were confident that other artifacts could surely be found on that Ann Arbor hilltop. One fellow, an adept at finding lost objects, virtually guaranteed that gold was to be found there. Now, I’m not particularly allured by “treasure,” but I’m just as certain that other coins are lurking in that vicinity—and maybe an entire burial complex.

All it would take is a good metal detector, appropriate permissions, and someone to wield the machine. There’s bound to be a bunch of accomplished detector folks out there. If such a “someone” wants to take on the project, I might be convinced to supply the address, maybe even convince me to go on the expedition!