Ancient Roman coins on display until Nov. 25

Ancient Roman coins on display until Nov. 25

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

On Sept. 26, local newspapers in Okinawa reported the discovery of four Roman and one Ottoman coins at Katsuren Castle near White Beach in Uruma city. The news instantly made headlines throughout the world.

More than one month since the discovery, the coins are on display at Uruma-Shi Yonashiro Rekishi Minzoku Shiryokan (Uruma city Yonashiro History and Folk Museum), a 30 minute drive from Camp Foster. The four coins, which date back to the Roman Empire between the late 3rd and 4th century, and one from the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century, were displayed with 4 other coins which were yet to be identified. The extremely old piece of history is open to the public 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. through Nov. 25 (closed Sat.).

Although these are no crown and jewels with glitz and glamour, the display is still full of intrigue. The rusty color of the coins and the worn-out insignia of a Roman soldier are thought to prove the prosperity and the unique status that the Katsuren Castle used to have.

It is a well-known fact that the Ryukyu Kingdom thrived on trading with foreign countries during a period commonly called “Daikoueki Jidaji (Era of large scale trade), which lasted from the 14th through 16th century. Masaki Yokoo of the Uruma city Board of Education explained that Katsuren Castle was a big part of such commercial activities.

“Along with Nakijin, Zakimi, and Nakagusuku castles, Katsuren is thought to have been an important hub for trade,” said Yokoo. “We have often seen foreign items such as ceramics from China and Southeast Asia discovered at the site. Most of them belong to the 13 and 14th century which was the heyday of the castle.”

At the museum, excavated chinaware and potteries are exhibited side by side with the Roman coins, attesting to the prosperity. As Yokoo noted, it was not just Kasturen Castle that thrived on the island through overseas trade. But the surprising discovery of the Roman and Ottoman coins seems to suggest the exceptional scale of success that this local area achieved.

It is commonly believed that the prosperity of Katsuren Castle ended when Amawari, who was the most prominent lord of the castle, plotted against the Ryukyu Kingdom and failed in the mid-15th century. But the discovery of ancient coins can be just the beginning of the search for its glory yet to be discovered.

Hakkutsu Sokuho Ten (Flash Report Exhibition of Excavated Items)

Date: Through Nov. 25 (closed Sat.)
Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Admission: Free
Location: Uruma-Shi Yonashiro Rekishi Minzoku Shiryokan (Uruma city Yonashiro History and Folk Museum)
Address: 1 Chuo, Yonashiro, Uruma city, 904-2305 (near the entrance to the sea road, 30 minute drive from Camp Foster, 15 minute drive from White Beach)

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