In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the swashbuckling professor tells his students that "70% of all archaeology is done in the library"—but at the University at Buffalo, it turned out to be 100% for assistant classics professor Philip Kiernan.
He followed up on a rumor about a trove of coins in the university archives and uncovered a priceless collection of dozens of ancient Greek and Roman coins, the university says in a press release.
The gold and silver coins, some of them 2,500 years old, came with a large collection of rare books donated by wealthy benefactor Thomas B. Lockwood in 1935, but it's only now that their true value has been recognized, the university says.
The find includes coins featuring the first dozen Roman emperors, even Otho, who ruled for just three months. Kiernan, a coin expert, tells the AP that he was "flabbergasted" when he realized the coins were genuine and not the early-20th-century reproductions he first took them for.
He says the coins, which he likens to the "$100 or $200 bills of the ancient world," are in excellent condition because they were extremely valuable even when they were made.
"They're extraordinarily well preserved," he says. "They haven't been rubbed through people's fingers in the marketplace." Kiernan says he doesn't know the market value of the coins, which will be used for teaching purposes.
"My job as an archaeologist is to appreciate their historical value, and their historical value is absolutely priceless," he tells the Buffalo News. (An Israeli diving club found thousands of ancient gold coins in its local harbor.)
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