Roman coins in Japan and Chinese skeletons in Roman London

Well, we’ve had two unrelated stories that hint at there having been more contact between Rome and contemporary cultures in China, Korea and Japan.

Personally I tend to dismiss this. Roman mirrors and glass have previously turned up in graves in both Korea and Japan, but that doesn’t imply direct contact, merely that the artefacts were traded on from one to another.

Like the Roman coins reportedly found at Oc Eo, it doesn’t mean that there were any Romans there. The fact that the Okinawa coins are reportedly copper, and hence low value items, suggests that they weren’t used as portable wealth, but were there as curios, perhaps along with the Ottoman coins found alongside them.

And sometimes, coins, due to being made out of hard indestructible materials do turn up in unexpected places, such as my finding an Isle of Man 10p coin in a bag of river gravel mulch in Canberra.

The skeletons however tend to suggest something more – skeletons usually being indicators of people. And people do tend to go everywhere – two Japanese sailors ended up in Tudor England having been captured from a Spanish treasure ship by English privateers. And of course Pliny has a story of people who might have been Inuit being washed into the mouth of the Rhine, so while there might have been a couple of people of east Asian origin who ended up in Roman London through some strange sequence of events, it doesn’t mean that they were running the felix draco takeaway or that they themselves are representatives of a larger community, it was pure happenstance …

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About dgm

IT professional, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical and medieval historian ...
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