A cache of over 4,000 silver and bronze coins dating back to ancient Rome has been discovered by a Swiss farmer. Buried some 1,700 years ago, it’s one of the largest treasures of its kind ever found in Switzerland.

As The Guardian reports, the trove of coins collectively weighs 33 pounds, or 15 kilograms. They were found on a spot of land that has never been developed.

The farmer found the cache while trying to rid his cherry orchard of a molehill.

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The coins, which are in remarkably great shape, were found in Ueken, which is located in northern Switzerland. A coin expert says their excellent condition likely means they were removed from circulation soon after being minted.

The coins have been dated to the period stretching from the time of Emperor Aurelian (270-275 AD) to the rule of Maximian (286-305 AD). The most recent coins were minted back in 294 AD.

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The coins’ excellent condition indicated that the owner systematically stashed them away shortly after they were made, the archaeologists said. For some reason that person had buried them shortly after 294 and never retrieved them. Some of the coins, made mainly of bronze but with a 5% silver content (an unusually high amount), were buried in small leather pouches.

The exact purchasing value of the money is not known, but they probably represented about a year or two of wages. According to Swiss law, the coins “belong to the public,” so at best the farmer will get a finder’s fee. As for the fate of the coins, they’re set to be put on display at Switzerland’s Vindonissa Museum, in Brugg, Aargau.

[ Guardian | National Post ]


Email the author at george@gizmodo.com and follow him at @dvorsky. All images: AFP/Kantons Archaeologie Aargau