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Zurich discovery Accidental coin find yields medieval money clues

Some of the coins came from as far away as Freiburg, Germany

(canton of Zurich)

More than 200 coins from the early 1300s have been discovered by chance in a forest near Zurich. They provide more clues as to how money networks around Switzerland worked during the Middle Ages. 

An employee of canton Zurich’s archaeological department stumbled upon a pile of coins in a forest while investigating an interesting topographical area for potential research. Originating from the period between 1295 and 1320, they were found “completely by accident,” according to archaeological researcher Werner Wild at the cantonal office.

Workers from the Winterthur Coin Collection and canton Zurich's archaeological department document and collect the coins

(canton of Zurich)

“This find is certainly significant for the canton,” Wild told “There was a similar discovery made near Winterthur in 1930, and we can combine the information from both to think about how money circulated in the area during the Middle Ages.” 

Wild says there are many theories as to how the money got there. It could have been buried there on purpose to hide it from thieves who were prevalent along the main roads during the Middle Ages. Or it may simply have been lost. Researchers believe it could have been contained in a cloth or leather pouch that has since disintegrated and that an animal may have found and scattered the coins at some point. 

The coins were quite valuable at the time, amounting to around two months’ income for a preacher in the area, for example.

Very few of the coins actually come from Zurich, with most originating in the areas near Basel and Zofingen in Switzerland. Others come from as far away as Freiburg im Breisgau in southern Germany. At the time, it was normal for money from all of those regions to be in circulation in Switzerland.

The collection will be transferred to the Winterthur Coin Collection for further analysis and comparison with earlier finds.

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