- In September, a hiker discovered two old coins in Utah’s Glen Canyon National Recreation area.
- The unnamed hiker did some research and believes the coins are Spanish of origin, with one dating back to around 200 years before Columbus set foot in the New World.
- The hiker turned the coins over to the National Park Service, which is investigating whether they are real and, if so, how they ended up in Utah.
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If Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, then how did a Spanish coin minted 200 years before that end up in Utah?
That’s the question National Park Service officials are trying to answer following the recent discovery of two mysterious coins near Lake Powell.
KSL reports that in September, a hiker was walking near the Halls Crossing Marina when he came across two circular pieces of metal that he thought were trash, one about the size of a quarter and the other smaller than a dime. But when he took a closer look at them later, he came to the conclusion that what he actually picked up were two Spanish coins hundreds of years old.
The hiker started researching coins online and says the larger one matches Spanish coins minted in the 1660s while the smaller one looks like it dates back to the 1290s.
It’s the smaller coin that adds mystery to the discovery, since it predates Columbus setting sail for the New World by 200 years.
It’s also curious that Spanish coins would end up in Utah, since subsequent Spanish exploratory trips through the American West didn’t come very close to the area where the coin was found.
According to National Parks Traveller, Spanish conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado was believed to be the first to travel near Utah in his search for the mythical “Seven Cities of Gold” in the early 1540s. But the closest that group got was to the Hopi villages in northern Arizona, more than 100 miles south.
The hiker returned the coins to the National Parks Service after the discovery, and officials are now looking for experts to help them figure out if the coins are indeed real and, if so, how they ended up in the park. Mary Plumb, public affairs specialist with the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, told INSIDER on Thursday they have found an expert to look at the larger of the two coins so far, but not the smaller coin.
NPS archaeologist Brian Harmon told National Parks Traveller there are a few different possibilities they are looking into. Those possibilities include scenarios in which the coins are real, and were either brought to the area by early Spanish explorers or settlers, or ended up in Utah after being traded.
Another option is that they are real, but were accidentally lost at the lake, perhaps by a coin collector. Finally, there’s the possibility the coins are counterfeit or reproductions.
While he admits he’s not an expert on coins, he believes they are “legit” and that they ended up in Utah “through non-nefarious means.”
Harmon said the most exciting possible scenario is that the coins were brought to Utah by an early Spanish settler or explorer, since it would mean that there was a Spanish presence in the area much earlier than initially believed.
Park officials kept the discovery secret until recently, and haven’t revealed the exact location where the coins were discovered. They also caution that the use of metal detectors in national parks is illegal, according to KSL.
Harmon told National Parks Traveller he’s planning a trip to where the coins were found to look for additional coins and clues as to how the first two got there.
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