An old coin bearing the face of a forgotten Roman emperor was considered fake up until now. It has finally been authenticated.
The coin was excavated 300 years ago and it depicted a leader named Sponsian who was in power during the 260s AD.
The coin was identified as fake because it differed from both the manufacturing process and the general style of Roman coins from the time.
There are no other historical records that Sponsian ever existed, but a new analysis suggests the coin is in fact authentic.
The coin comes from a small hoard unearthed in Transylvania in 1713 which found its way into collections around Europe.
Researchers from University College London closely analyzed the coins – three of which showed other known Roman emperors – using several techniques, including light microscopy and ultra-violet imaging.
On the Sponsian coin, they discovered micro-abrasion patterns typically associated with coins that were in circulation for an extensive period of time.
They suggest Sponsian was an army commander in the Roman Province of Dacia during a period of military strife during the 260s AD.
Only four coins featuring Sponsian are known to have survived to the present day.
Paul Pearon, the lead author of the study, said: ‘Scientific analysis of these ultra-rare coins rescues the emperor Sponsian from obscurity.
‘Our evidence suggests he ruled Roman Dacia, an isolated gold mining outpost, at a time when the empire was beset by civil wars and the borderlands were overrun by plundering invaders.’
Curator of Numismatics at The Hunterian, Jesper Ericsson, said: ‘Not only do we hope that this encourages further debate about Sponsian as a historical figure, but also the investigation of coins relating to him held in other museums across Europe.’
The discovery was published in the journal Plos One.