Roman Coins from Breathitt Co., Ky.




Photos: Warren Brunner, Berea Ky.
Click on photos for enlargements

The above three coins were found in a cave shelter in Breathitt County, Kentucky, by Mr. Michael Wayne Griffith of the same county. Mr. Griffith has found another 9 or so similar coins, but the three depicted are the best preserved of the group.

A few years ago the three depicted were examined hands-on by Norman Totten, Professor of History, now Emeritus, at Bentley College. Totten identified the two thinner coins (the top two above) as antoniniani, a type of bronze Roman coin minted between 238 and 305 A.D. The obverses (left photos) depict an unidentifiable emperor wearing the distinctive "solar crown" of the period. The reverse of the top one, in the right photo, depicts two figures standing facing what apparently is a central altar, while that of the middle one depicts a female standing figure facing left with a cornucopia in her right hand. These would originally have had a silver surface, long since gone. The third coin is thicker, and depicts a bust facing right, wearing a laureate wreath rather than a crown. The reverse, according to Totten, is perhaps a figure of a centaur walking to the right and looking back. Its flan (the metal disk from which coin is made) seems to be of a North African (Egyptian) or Middle Eastern type. This coin probably dates to a similar period to that of the two antoniniani (singular antoninianus). While Totten is confident that the coins are genuine, he warns that such coins are easy to obtain from coin dealers.

In 1963, a small hoard of Roman coins from the same approximate period, and in a much better state of preservation, was found during bridge construction on the north bank of the Ohio River, at the Falls of the Ohio, opposite Louisville, Kentucky.

Breathitt Co., population 16,100 in 2000, is on the upper Kentucky River, in the southeastern portion of the state. The county seat is Jackson, pop. 2,490. Two of the larger towns are named Quicksand and Lost Creek, but the 2000 U.S. Census couldn't find either. The nearest metropolis is Hazard (which may or may not be the inspiration for the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV series), pop. 4,806, and one county to the south.

Mr. Griffith is difficult to contact, but is known to Mr. David Feldman, President of Feldman Lumber Co. in Lancaster, Ky.

The author wishes to thank Prof. Norman Totten, Dr. John Payne, of Berea, Ky., and Mr. David Feldman of Lancaster, Ky., for their invaluable assistance.

Return to top of this page .
Up to Coin Finds Page.
Up to Archaeological Outliers Page.

Page maintained and written by J. Huston McCulloch
Send comments to: Please mention the webpage you are commenting on.
Last revised 9/6/01