Discovering Switzerland’s buried treasure

Kai Reusser /

There’s no need to head for the pyramids of Egypt or Mesoamerica to feel like Indiana Jones – Switzerland is bursting with archaeological surprises. The 293 silver Roman coins recently unearthed in a Basel forest are just the tip of the treasure chest. 

This content was published on November 24, 2019 - 15:00

From gold pendants and bronze hands to jugs filled with coins, in this map X marks the spot of some of the most significant finds of recent years.

1.     Pratteln (canton Basel Country), November 2019

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A local amateur archaeologist chanced upon 293 silver Roman coins, in excellent condition, in a forest. Estimated to be worth half a legionary's annual salary, they are thought to have been buried around AD180 for safekeeping – not an unusual practice at the time. The oldest coins date from the reign of Emperor Nero (AD54-68). sda-ats

2.     Zugerberg (canton Zug), November 2019

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Archaeologists discovered 12 silver Roman coins during systematic work in a remote forest. The coins were minted between AD241-255. Amt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Zug

3.     Altdorf (canton Uri), February 2019

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Roman coins, a brooch and gold pendant were discovered during an excavation of what could have been the historic heart of Altdorf (where, according to legend, William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head). They date to the Late Antiquity, with the pendant thought to have been made around AD600. F.X.Brun


4.     Prêles (canton Bern), October 2017

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Two metal detectorists unearthed a bronze sculpted hand wearing a gold bracelet. It has been dated to 1,500-1,400BC. Keystone

5.     Windisch (canton Aargau), November 2016

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Construction workers building some flats and offices got a surprise when they found an earthenware pot containing 22 oil lamps, each with a coin in the middle. Archaeologists believe it was part of a ritual burial. The coins, dating from AD66-67, are bronze asses – each worth around a quarter of a sestertius – and, as such, are of lower value. Kantonsarchäologie Aargau

6.     Ueken (canton Aargau), November 2015

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One of the most important numismatic discoveries in Switzerland: 4,166 bronze coins weighing 15kg were found by a farmer who noticed the green-tinged coins peeping out of a molehill in his cherry orchard. They date to the end of the third century AD. Kantonsarchäologie Aargau

7.     Orselina (canton Ticino), December 2014

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An amphora turned up during the installation of pipework on private land. It contained 4,869 coins, in good condition, dating from the end of the first century to the third century AD. Such a discovery, given the number and rarity of the coins, has rarely been seen in Europe. Ufficio dei beni culturali – Bellinzona, fotografia D. Rogantini-Temperli

8.     Brünig Pass (canton Obwalden), January 2014

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Archaeologists discovered more than 100 silver coins dating from the end of the 13th century (when Switzerland was founded) between boulders on an old mule track above the village of Lungern. The researchers reckon a traveller had either hidden or lost the money. KEYSTONE/Sigi Tischler

9.     Füllinsdorf (canton Basel Country), March 2012

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The most important hoard of Celtic coins in Switzerland was found under a few centimetres of earth. It comprised 293 silver coins roughly one centimetre in diameter and weighing two grams. The coins – Celtic copies of Roman money – were buried around 80-70BC and bear an inscription in Greek, KAΛETEΔOY (Kaletedou), which could be the name of a Gallic chieftain. Archäologie Baselland

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