The animal discovered the treasure trove of Roman-era coins in northwestern Spain.
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badger native to europe
Credit: Coatesy / Getty Images

A hungry badger is to thank for archaeologists discovering more than 200 Roman-era coins in a cave in northwestern Spain.

The artifacts were first found in April. Roberto García came across the treasure near the animal's nest and notified a team of archaeologists, according to a paper published last month in Autonomous University's Journal of Prehistory and Archaeology.

"We were shocked to find 90 coins just in the floor outside a nest of a badger," the dig director Alfonso Fanjul told USA TODAY. "We didn't know how many could be underground or even if we could find more valuable objects." 

In total, the scientists found 209 coins from the late Roman periodsome dating as far back as 400 A.D.—that were likely dug up by the badger when foraging for food during a rare snowstorm last January. Fanjul believes there could be more coins in the cave.

"We've taken out the first deposit, but we think there is a lot more to take out," Fanjul told CNN.

He added the La Cuesta cave site could also provide insight into the fall of the Roman empire and the rise of the medieval kingdoms of northern Spain.

"We think it's an ideal site to learn more about the people that were living through this transition," Fanjul said, who plans to do further exploration of the area this year.

The discovery is the largest Roman treasure trove recovered from inside a cave in Spain to date, according to Fanjul.

He also told CNN that he believes that the coins were hidden by refugees who sheltered in the area during the late Roman period.

"We think it's a reflection of the social and political instability which came along with the fall of Rome and the arrival of groups of barbarians to northern Spain," Fanjul explained.

The coins are now being cleaned and will be displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Asturias in Oviedo, Spain.

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