A Swiss farmer has unearthed 4,000 bronze coins from the Roman period – one of the largest hoards ever excavated in Switzerland. Archaeologists say they date back to AD 295.
The farmer noticed the green-tinged coins peeping out of a molehill in his cherry orchard in Ueken in canton Aargau. He alerted the local archaeological authorities, who launched a preliminary dig in September.
“What we found within the first three days exceeded all expectations by far,” announced Aargau archaeologist Georg Matter on Thursday, noting that there have been very few such finds. The excellent condition of the coins suggests they were barely in circulation before being buried.
By early November, the archaeology team had found 4,166 Roman coins within an area of just a few square metres. Some of them were stashed in cloth and leather bags. The valuable bronze coins contain about 5% silver and weigh some 15 kilogrammes altogether.
Swiss numismatist Hugo Doppler has identified a number of emperors stamped onto the coins: Aurelian (270-275), Tacitus (275-276), Probus (276-282), Carus (283-285), Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (286-305). The newest coins are from the year 294.
“The owner must have deliberately chosen these coins in order to hoard them,” believes Doppler. “Their silver content would have guaranteed a certain value conservation in a time of economic uncertainty.”
It’s not clear how much the coins would have been worth at the time of minting, but experts reckon it would easily have been one or two years’ salary. According to Swiss law, the coins now belong to the general public. After additional cleaning and examination, the hoard will be on display at the Vindonissa Museum in Brugg.