RNS Research Grant Award: coin hoards from Palermo

by Antonino Crisà

In February 2016 I made an application to the Royal Numismatic Society to request funds in order to study two coin hoards found in Palermo province during the second half of the nineteenth century. The first eighteenth-century Sicilian coin hoard, discovered at the railway construction site in Cerda (Palermo) (1869), was supposed to be preserved at the Archaeological Museum ‘A. Salinas’. Following an accurate survey in the museum storehouse, the hoard has not been found there. However, I have already published archival records on the Cerda hoard (A. Crisà, ‘An eighteenth-century Sicilian coin hoard from the Termini-Cerda railway construction site (Palermo, 1869)’, American Journal of Numismatics, 26 (2014): 339-62).

I therefore focused all of my research on the second hoard, found at ‘Via Maqueda’ in Palermo (1872). The hoard currently includes 76 silver coins, dated to the sixteenth century and minted in Sicily (scudi, tarì, etc.), Spain (8 reales, 4 reales, etc.) and Malta. Issuers are mostly Charles V (1516-56), Philippus II (1556-98), Jean de la Vallette (1557-68) and Jean Levesque de la Cassiere (1572-81). Antonino Salinas (1841-1914), who was the Museum Director at that time, had supervised the huge construction site at Via Maqueda. He finally acquired the hoard in 1872 and performed preliminary cataloguing, although the hoard is still entirely unpublished.

The hoard is extremely interesting and is certainly worthy of publication. In fact, it sheds new light on the archaeological context, the history of Sicilian archaeology, and coin circulation and hoarding trends in sixteenth-century Sicily.

Philippus II (1556-98), AR 10 tarì, Messina (1571) (inv. 68331, Museo ’Salinas’, Palermo)













I carried out my work in Palermo in stages in September 2016 and 2017, as follows:


1. Palermo Museum: preliminary coin cataloguing: all coins measured, weighed and analysed.


2. Palermo Museum: further coin analysis: all coins studied accurately.

3. Palermo Museum (Archive): archival research: I found 15 crucial records relevant to the hoard discovery.

4. Palermo City Council: archival research at the local historical archive. The institution holds 10 records on the construction site at Via Maqueda.


5. Palermo Museum: lastly, after having obtained a special authorization by the Museum Director Francesca Spatafora, I photographed all of the coin hoard.

Following this promising research, I am currently working on a paper regarding the Via Maqueda Hoard (1872) and all relevant archival records, to be published in an international journal. Documents offer crucial data to reconstruct the hoard’s discovery, its acquisition by the Palermo Museum and the interaction between museum and state authorities dealing with casual archaeological discoveries.

Lastly, I want to thank the Royal Numismatic Society for granting this award, which allowed me to perform my research in Sicily successfully.