1,400-year-old petty cash pot found in Turkey

Ten 1,400-year-old coins in a jug have been unearthed in the ancient city of Hadrianopolis, modern-day Eskipazar in the Black Sea region of Turkey. The coins date to the reign of the Byzantine emperor Constans II (r. 641-668) and is probably not a hoard in the sense of having been deliberately hidden or buried, but more like a piggy bank or household petty cash box.

The coins were found in a building whose overall function is still unknown. As a number of pottery vessels of different configurations and cooking utensils were found inside the structure, archaeologists believe it may have been a kitchen. The building was in use for centuries — at least 300 years, perhaps 400 — and was repeatedly repaired, expanded and renovated during its occupation. The coins were from the last phase of the building’s use.

Renamed in honor of the Roman emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D., Hadrianopolis was originally founded by the Hittites around 1300 B.C. The remains of the Roman city have been excavated off and on since 2003, uncovering 14 public structures including two baths, a theater and two churches. The 2018 excavation uncovered the remains of one of the oldest churches in Anatolia, dating to the 5th century and decorated with exquisite mosaic floors. The city was an important center of ecclesiastical administration and several notable religious figures were born or lived there, making Hadrianopolis a popular site of pilgrimage.

The same 2018 excavation found evidence that Hadrianopolis was suddenly abandoned in the 7th century A.D. It seems to have been entirely depopulated almost overnight for unknown reasons. Perhaps the little pot of money was left behind in this cataclysmic event.