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Project direction: ITABC (Institute for technologies applied to cultural heritage)

Field director: Salvatore Garraffo

Participating bodies: IBAM – CNR (Paolo Romano; Angelo Nicolosi; Stefania Santangelo)

Site location: Leptis Magna (Libia)

Date of activity: From 2007 onwards

Brief description: The greatest Roman coin hoard, found in 1981 at Misurata (Libia), can be seen in all its splendour thanks to the work of the Institute for technologies applied to cultural heritage (ITABC) of the National Research Council (CNR), which has coordinated the restoration, historical study, compositional analysis, and the digitalisation of this treasure.

The hoard, made up of 108 thousand coins, was found by chance during agricultural work, hidden inside large terracotta vessels (jars, jugs, amphorae). They were buried close to two buildings that were perhaps part of a place for changing the horses of the cursus publicus – the state run service for transporting goods and packages – and a stopping place for people who travelled on behalf of the central administration. Datable to between 294 and 333 A.D., these coins are nummi (folles) that is made from copper-tin-lead alloy, including a small quantity of silver, characterised by a silvered surface.

From 2007 onwards, the coins have undergone a series of accurate physical, non-invasive analyses, aimed at defining the percentage of the silver content in the alloy and, in association with other investigative methods, the manufacturing technology, elements that help to reconstruct the inflation and the periodic economic and monetary crises that affected the Roman Empire in these decades. The measurements are based on the use of radioactive sources made available by the CNR laboratories and by the Institute of Nuclear Physics.

Site typology and date: Coin hoard of nummi datable to between 294 and 333 A.D.

Student participants: No

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