Unseen Western European Silver Coins Used in Ottoman Empire Showcased by Museum in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora

A total of 290 Western European silver coins minted from the 16th until the 19th century have been exhibited for the first time by the History Museum in Buglaria's Stara Zagora. Photo: Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History

A total of 290 Western European silver coins minted from the 16th until the 19th century have been exhibited for the first time by the History Museum in Buglaria’s Stara Zagora. Photo: Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History

A hoard of Western European silver coins from the 16th-19th century which were used in the Ottoman Empire has been shown to the public for the first time in the traditional annual numismatic exhibition of the Regional Museum of History in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora.

The Ottoman Era treasure of Western European coins in question was discovered by accident buried in a yard in the town of Byal Izvor, Opan Municipality, in Southern Bulgaria, back in 1957, the Museum has announced.

It was bought out by a local man, Lozan Petkov, for the price of BGN 1,650, and donated to the Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History.

The 290 silver coins weigh a combined total of over 6 kg. The coin hoard was kept for almost six decades in the collection of the museum, to be showcased for the very first time only in December 2016.

It consists of a total of 172 thalers and 118 other Western European coins (florins, testons, groschen, reales, kreutzers) minted between the 16th and the 19th century by different towns and provinces of the Holy Roman Empire, the Belgian Confederation, and some Western European emperors.

The oldest coins in the hoard are four silver testons minted in the town of Emden in the German province of Lower Saxony during the reign of Emperor Ferdinand II (r. 1578-1637).

The most numerous type of coins in the hoard were minted in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands and the Dutch province of Gelderland between 1606 and 1688.

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Numismatist Mariana Minkova (right) and Petar Kalchev, Director of the Stara Zagora Museum of History, at the opening of the 2016 annual numismatic exhibition. Photo: Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History

Numismatist Mariana Minkova (right) and Petar Kalchev, Director of the Stara Zagora Museum of History, at the opening of the 2016 annual numismatic exhibition. Photos: Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History

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Mariana Minkova, numismatist at the Stara Zagora Museum of History, has told the Monitor daily that the silver coin hoard was probably worth about 30,000 akce, the main coin of the Ottoman Empire.

To compare its worth, according to historical source, the total annual tax paid by the residents of Stara Zagora (then Eksi Zaara, which is also the successor of the ancient and medieval city of Augusta Traiana – Vereia) to the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century amounted to 49,098 akce.

It has been hypothesized that the hoard of Western European silver coins might have been the property of a traveling foreign merchant who hid it for fear of being mugged by local gangs in the Ottoman countryside in the 1830s.

It is noted that the 16th-19th century Western European coins have a high silver content, which probably originated in the mines of today’s Bolivia and Peru in the Spanish Colonial Empire in Latin America.

The collection of the Regional Museum of History in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora contains over 35,000 coins, the oldest of which date back to the 4th century BC.

The Western European silver coins from the Ottoman Empire have been exhibited in an annual numismatic exhibition organized each year ahead of December 6, the Day of St. Nicholas (Nikulden) who in Bulgaria is considered a patron of bankers according to the tradition of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Learn more about Augusta Traiana – Vereia, the ancient and medieval predecessor of today’s Stara Zagora, in the Background Infonotes below!

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The official poster of the 2016 numismatic exhibition of the Stara Zagora Museum. Photo: Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History

The official poster of the 2016 numismatic exhibition of the Stara Zagora Museum. Photo: Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History

Background Infonotes:

The Augusta Traiana – Vereia Archaeological Preserve in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora features the ruins of the Ancient Roman city of Ulpia Augusta Traiana founded by Roman Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD) (after whom it was named) on the site of a previously existing Ancient Thracian settlement called Beroe. (Some recent research indicates it might have been founded by Trajan’s successor, Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138 AD).)

It saw its greatest urban development later under Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180 AD). It quickly became the second most important city in the Roman province of Thrace after Philipopolis (Trimontium), today’s Plovdiv.

The Roman city of Augusta Traiana covered a territory of about 500 decares (app. 125 acres). During the Late Antiquity, it was visited by several Roman Emperors including Septimius Severus (r. 193-211 AD), Caracalla (r. 211-217 AD), and Diocletian (r. 294-305 AD), which is seen as a testimony to its importance.

In the 2nd-3rd century, Augusta Traiana minted its own coins (a total of 874 of them have been found, as of 2016); it is known to have had commercial contacts with faraway regions and cities such as Sparta, Aquincum (today’s Budapest in Hungary), and the province of Syria.

In the middle of the 4th century, Augusta Traiana became one of the major Early Christian centers in the Balkans.

In the Late Antiquity (4th-6th century) the city of Augusta Traiana was once again known under its original Thracian name of Beroe. Much of it was destroyed by barbarian invasions – by the Goths in the 4th century, the Huns in the 5th century, and later by the Avars, Slavs, and Bulgars. The invasions of the Bulgars and Slavs in the late 7th century, around the time of the two peoples formed the First Bulgarian Empire (680-1018 AD), effectively ended the life of the Ancient Thracian and Roman city of Beroe / Augustra Traiana as it was.

It became part of Bulgaria under Khan Tervel (r. 700-718 AD), who called it Boruy. The city was a major bone of contention during the numerous wars between Bulgaria and Byzantium and became known as Vereia after Byzantium conquered the eastern parts of the First Bulgarian Empire in the late 10th century. Bulgaria reconquered it during the early years of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD).

In addition to its Neolithic, Ancient Roman, Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian heritage, the territory of the city of Stara Zagora is dotted with Ancient Thracian archaeological sites, including more than 30 known temples of the main god according to Thracian mythology, the Thracian Horseman.

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The Stara Zagora Neolithic Dwellings Museum is part of the Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History. It features what are described as “Europe’s best preserved homes from the early Neolithic period". It is based on discoveries made at a Neolithic settlement in the western part of the city dating back to the 7th-6th millennium BC first excavated in 1969 during rescue digs. In addition to the best preserved in situ early Neolithic dwelling in Europe, the museum also features an exhibition of prehistoric art.

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