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UPDATE: Lake Powell Coins Mystery

UPDATE: Lake Powell Coins Mystery
May 22
06:51 2019

UPDATE:  PAGE, AZ – Glen Canyon National Recreation Area’s investigation of centuries old Spanish coins turned into the park has provisionally concluded the coins are authentic. However they were probably part of a modern coin collection, perhaps accidentally or intentionally dropped by a visitor to Lake Powell. A hiker in the Halls Crossing area discovered two small coins and turned them into the park for further study. The coins are being stored in a climate controlled environment to protect them and are not on public display. Spanish coin experts Dr. Fernando Vela Cossio and Luis Fernando Abril Urmente assisted with the identification.

The park visited the site where the coins were found and believes their presence near Halls Crossing is modern, based on three observations. First, the dates of the two coins are widely divergent (1662-1664 and 1252-1284) and are significantly earlier than the Dominguez and Escalante Expedition of 1776, the first known Spanish presence in the area. Second, the coins were found in a scatter of modern houseboat trash that included 15 United States coins dating from 1974 to 2016. Third, the coins were found in a canyon bottom, a setting unlikely to preserve ancient deposits. The lack of nearby places having potential to contain ancient deposits suggests the coins are not associated with 17th or 18th century Native Americans or Spanish explorers.

The coins do tell two important stories. First, the visitor who found the coins and turned them into the park showed great respect for the history and resources in the park and instead of keeping them, ensured everyone could learn about the coins. Second, the coins’ exact location and what they were found with has contributed to educated guesses about their history. This is why archeological artifacts should be left in place and reported to the land management agency: where they are is just as important as what they are.

Photos: Spanish Coins turned into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The larger coin as a 16 maravedis. The smaller coin as a dinero dating to the reign of Alfonso X. NPS Photos.

More information is available on each park’s website: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area or Rainbow Bridge National Monument


April 25, 2019 – Page, AZ – National Park Service officials at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area are puzzling over an apparent discovery of old Spanish coins–do they represent a remarkable find or a clever hoax? A hiker from Colorado reported finding the coins last fall while hiking near Halls Crossing marina.  The area has periodically been underwater. One coin is believed to be silver and dates from the 1660s.  The other appears to be copper and likely came from the late 1200s.

The earliest-documented Spanish expedition in the area occurred in 1776, and it never went anywhere near Halls Crossing. Park Service officials speculate that, if real, the coins possibly came from an earlier, undocumented Spanish presence, or they may have been traded to Indians by early Spanish explorers. The exact location of the find is not being released so that a further examination of the area can be made.


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