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Spanish coins found in Utah desert may pre-date Columbus
By thinkSPAIN Team Sat, May 18, 2019
COINS found in the Utah desert may be evidence of Spanish settlers on the American continent at least 200 years before Christopher Columbus arrived – or they may merely be a hoax.
A hiker from Colorado found what he thought were two shards of scrap metal whilst out walking in the Arches National Park close to the Marina Holls Crossing, near Lake Powell, but on examining them closer at home, realised they had imprints which could have historic significance.
He took the two coins to the US National Parks Service for investigation, says the organisation's archaeologist Brian Harmon, and they are now at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Page, Arizona, where they are still being studied eight months later.
“We're trying not to touch them and contaminate them with our hands,” says Harmon.
“They appear to be very well-preserved. They're very thin; we think one is probably silver and the other copper.”
The coins were found in a touristy part of the park which had been underwater on occasions in the decades following the construction of the Glen Canyon dam in 1966.
If they turn out to be genuine, the next step is to try to solve the mystery of how they made it to Utah.
It is well-documented that two Spanish priests, Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Veles de Escalante went on an evangelising mission to that part of the American continent in 1776, but did not get close enough to the national park to have dropped the coins, and in any case, the inscriptions on them appear to date back much farther than the late 18th century.
In fact, initial estimates date the coins back to around the year 1290.
Columbus, credited with having 'discovered' the Americas and sparking the process which led to the colonisation of huge swathes of the continent by Spain and then, later, France, Portugal, Britain, The Netherlands and Denmark, set sail from the province of Cádiz in the year 1492.
“One possibility is that there was indeed a presence of Spaniards in the Utah area in the late 13th century and that this has gone largely undocumented, or that the coins were sold to native Americans by the earliest Spanish explorers,” Harmon speculates.
Experts in Spanish coins who are analysing the two pieces have not ruled out any possible theory – even that they were possibly planted there for a joke to see whether history would rewrite itself.
They may be real, but have been dropped there recently and buried by a tourist just to see what experts would make of them.
Or they may be real and evidence that Europeans were exploring the New World centuries before it is believed to have been discovered.
The coins found are shown above in the photograph from local newspaper Deseret News on Twitter (@DeseretNews), and the picture of Arches National Park in Utah is by Diego Delso on Wikimedia Commons.
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