Ancient coins found in Italy could be the spoils of a shipwreck

Tens of thousands of ancient bronze coins have been found off the coast of the Italian island of Sardinia.

A bunch of bronze coins

The coins, dating from the first half of the fourth century AD, were found in seagrass not far from the town of Arzachena.

They were first spotted by a diver who saw something metallic out of the corner of their eye.

The diver alerted authorities, who sent divers from an art protection squad along with others from the Italian cultural ministry’s undersea archaeology department.

Ancient coins found in Italy could be the spoils of a shipwreckThe number of large bronze coins would be between 30,000 and 50,000. (Supplied: MiC Italia)

Exactly how many coins have been retrieved has not been determined yet, as they are still being sorted.

A ministry statement estimated that there are at least about 30,000 and possibly as many as 50,000, given their collective weight.

“All the coins were in an excellent and rare state of preservation,” the ministry said.

The few coins that were damaged still had legible inscriptions, it said.

“The treasure found in the waters off Arzachena represent one of the most important coin discoveries,” in recent years, said Luigi La Rocca, a Sardinian archaeology department official.

Mr La Rocca added in a statement that the find was “further evidence of the richness and importance of the archaeological heritage that the seabed of our seas, crossed by men and goods from the most ancient of epochs, still keep and preserve”.

Firefighter divers and border police divers were also involved in locating and retrieving the coins.

Ancient coins found in Italy could be the spoils of a shipwreckA team from the ministry of culture and local authorities worked to uncover the coins. (Supplied: MiC Italia)

The coins were mainly found in a wide area of sand between the underwater seagrass and the beach.

Given the location and shape of the seabed, there could be remains of ship wreckage nearby.