John Hollenhorst, KSL TV, File

NPS: Centuries-old Spanish coins found at Lake Powell authentic, but likely weren’t dropped by explorers

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Posted - May 21st, 2019 @ 8:05pm



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PAGE, Ariz. — Mystery solved.

Two centuries-old Spanish coins that were found near Lake Powell last September are authentic, but were determined to be a part of a modern coin collection, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area spokeswoman Mary Plumb said Tuesday.

It’s unclear if the coins — one dating back as early as 1252 and another as early as 1662 — were accidentally or intentionally dropped there by a visitor at Lake Powell, Plumb said.

A Colorado hiker discovered the coins near the Halls Crossing Marina in 2018 and turned them over to National Park Service rangers. It sparked an investigation into whether it was a hoax or the coins had been dropped by someone during the famed 1776 Dominguez and Escalante Expedition, led by Spanish priests Father Atanasio Dominguez and Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante.

National Park Service doubted the coins had been dropped in 1776, but brought in Spanish coin experts Dr. Fernando Vela Cossio and Luis Fernando Abril Urmente to assist in the investigation.

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While the coins were authentic, officials said there were reasons to question if they had been dropped in 1776. However, in a statement, the coins were found “in a scatter of modern houseboat trash that included 15 United States coins dating from 1974 to 2016.” In addition, it wasn’t believed the 1776 group would have used those coins and the area the coins were found was a “setting unlikely to preserve ancient deposits.”

Plumb thanked the hiker for turning the coins in to see if there was historical significance to the coins instead of keeping them for themselves.

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