Fire ravaged this Spanish building over a millennia ago. See the coins that survived

For nearly 1,000 years, Casa del Mitreo was a sprawling estate situated just outside a bustling Spanish city, known for its architectural complexity, rich mosaics and other decor.

Then, at the beginning of the fourth century, the home was ravaged by a fire and forgotten until it was discovered by archaeologists in 1967. Since then, archaeologists have worked to uncover the secrets of the estate.

The latest find — a collection of Roman-era coins covered with traces of an ancient coin purse — is especially rare, according to a new study, the University of Granada said in a May 12 news release. This marks only the second time such a discovery has been made on the Iberian Peninsula.

Researchers said they could see the traces of the coin purse on the outside of the coins.
Researchers said they could see the traces of the coin purse on the outside of the coins.

Experts said they discovered the coins in what was once a private bath area of the home.

A new benchmark for research

While researchers were interested in the 1,800-year-old coins, more unusual was the discovery of ancient textiles attached to five of the 52 coins, the university said. The discovery indicates that textiles were used for more than just clothes during the time period.

In their study, researchers noted that minimal evidence of Spanish textiles from the Roman-era exists. The discovery at Casa del Mitreo will offer experts a new starting place for comparison and knowledge about the production and use of textiles.

The location of the coins and purse is also important, researchers said.

Because the coins were in a container in the most private part of the bathrooms, experts think they were purposefully hidden, researchers said in their study.

Origins in Egypt or eastern Asia

Analysis of the textiles revealed that the threads used to make the purse originated in Egypt or east Asia, researchers said in the university’s release.

However, researchers said they are still uncertain where the purse itself was produced. The threads could have been made and imported to Spain where the bag itself was created, they said.

By examining the material, experts determined that the threads were likely used to make a taffeta or linen material that was strong enough to hold the coins’ weight.

Casa del Mitreo is near Mérida, which is in the southwestern region of Spain.

Google Translate was used to translate a news release from the University of Granada and the study.

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