By Rossella Lorenzi - Discovery News
Italian archaeologists have retrieved a sunken treasure of 3,422 ancient bronze coins in the small Sicilian island of Pantelleria, they announced today.
Discovered by chance during a survey to create an underwater archaeological itinerary,the coins have been dated between 264 and 241 BC.
At that time, Pantelleria, which lies about 70 miles southwest of Sicily, in the middle of the Sicily Strait, became a bone of contention between the Romans and Carthaginians.
Rome captured the small Mediterranean island in the First Punic War in 255 BC, but lost it a year later.
In 217 BC, in the Second Punic War, Rome finally regained the island, and even celebrated the event with commemorative coins and a holiday.
Lying at depth of about 68 feet, the coins most likely represent an episode of the Romans and Carthaginians struggle.
Amazingly, all 3,422 coins feature the same iconography.
On one side, they show Kore/Tanit, the ancient goddess of fertility, whom Carthaginians worshipped on the island around 550 BC.
On the other, the coins display the head of a horse, surrounded by symbols such as stars, letters and a caduceus. A staff often surmounted by two wings and entwined with two snakes, the caduceus was the symbol of Hermes, the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology.