When it comes to pottery filled with gold, we usually think of pottery guarded ferociously by a leprechaun, which according to legend can be found at the end of a rainbow. However, it’s in Italy, not Ireland, that archaeologists have made a surprising discovery: an amphora containing no less than 300 gold coins, buried under an old abandoned theatre.
An exceptional discovery, even for its time
The amphora, made from soapstone (a tender rock principally composed of talc), was discovered during the demolition of the ancient theatre of Cressoni, a historic place in the town of Como in northern Italy. It was then sent to the MiBAC laboratory in Milan, where restorers, archaeologists and coin experts will study it in more detail.
However, this work will take some time: the coins tightened narrowly in rows, should be extracted one by one from the amphora, with care and precision. Up to this point, 27 of them have been separated successfully, revealing their perfectly preserved state. Archaeologists have also been able to confirm that the treasure dates back to the end of the Roman Empire, in the fifth century.
This is surprising when we know that very little money was in circulation within the Roman economic system at this time. They were reportedly created during the reigns of five different emperors: Honorius, Valentinian III, Leo I, Anthemius and Severus III.
A priceless treasure
‘We don’t yet know the cultural and historical meaning of this discovery in detail’, Alberto Bonisoli explains, from the heritage and cultural activities ministry. ‘But this zone has revealed itself to be a real gem for our archaeology. It’s a discovery that fills me with pride’. Unsurprisingly, the find has generated much interest, with some asking about the value of such a treasure.
‘We can’t really give a precise value [to these coins], because they don’t constitute a commercial property’, explains the architect Luca Rinaldi, ‘but there is no doubt that it’s an exceptional discovery and will, therefore, possess a priceless value’. A discovery that nevertheless remains full of mystery.
When were these coins left in this place? By whom, and why? And why did no one come back for them? So many questions remain without an answer for the time being. Future searches will probably teach us more about the story behind these coins, and, we hope, about their owner.