Roman treasure discovered by chance: Hundreds of ancient gold coins hidden for centuries
A precious cache of ancient Roman coins discovered on the site of a former theatre in northern Italy is being investigated by archaeologists. The coins, at least 300 of them, date back to the late Roman imperial era and were discovered in the basement of the Cressoni Theatre in Como, north of Milan, in a soapstone jar.
“We do not yet know in detail the historical and cultural significance of the find,” said Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli in a press release. “But that area is proving to be a real treasure for our archaeology. A discovery that fills me with pride.”
Whoever placed the jar in that place “buried it in such a way that in case of danger they could go and retrieve it,” said Maria Grazia Facchinetti, a numismatist — or expert in rare coins — at a press conference.
“They were stacked in rolls similar to those seen in the bank today,” she said, adding the coins have engravings about emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leon I, Antonio, and Libio Severo “so they don’t go beyond 474 AD.”
“All of this makes us think that the owner is not a private subject, rather it could be a public bank or deposit,” Facchinetti added.
Archaeologists also uncovered a golden bar inside the jar.
According to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, coins were transferred to the Mibac restoration laboratory in Milan where archaeologists and restorers are examining them.
The ministry did not place a value on the coins. But reports in the Italian media suggest they could be worth millions of dollars.
The historic Cressoni Theater opened in 1807 before transitioning into a cinema and eventually closing in 1997. The site is not far from the Novum Comum forum area, where other important Roman artefacts were discovered, according to the ministry.
The find is one of several surprising discoveries of Roman coins in recent years.
In 2016, archaeologists unearthed a rare 2,000-year-old Roman a gold coin in Jerusalem. The coin featured the face of Nero, the Roman emperor best known for playing the fiddle while Ancient Rome burned, and was likely struck in 56-57 AD.
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It was discovered at the Mount Zion archaeological dig, south of the Old City of Jerusalem, where a University of North Carolina-Charlotte team was excavating throughout the summer.
That same year, a team of archaeologists unearthed 10 ancient Roman and Ottoman coins from the ruins of a castle in Okinawa, Japan.