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Massive hoard found

A Roman coin hoard containing around 5,500 silver Roman coins, dated to almost 2,000 years ago, has come to light during excavations in an old riverbed in advance of a housing development in Augsburg, Germany.

According to numismatist Stefan Krmnicek of the University of Tübingen, the coins are denarii, a standard silver coin in wide use between the 1st and early 3rd centuries AD. The hoard weighs 14.7kg, the largest such find ever made in Bavaria. Their findspot in Augsburg, northwest of Munich, was originally a military camp built by Emperor Augustus between 8 and 5 BC. It grew into a fully-fledged town, Augusta Vindelicorum, which later became the capital of a large province named Raetia. The money was probably buried outside the city during the 3rd century but was washed away in a flood centuries later that scattered the coins through the river gravel.

This was a very valuable treasure when it was buried, probably owned by a military officer or a trader, being worth 10 or 15 times the 375 to 500 denarii annual salary of a legionary. The earliest coins in the hoard date to the time of Emperor Nero (AD 54 to 68), while the most recent come from Septimus Severus’s reign (AD 193 to 211). Other finds from the Augsburg camp document residents from as far afield as Italy, Spain, North Africa, and Southern France. This is hardly surprising, for Raetia controlled important highways that connected Italy with the Danube River and Gaul and the Balkans.

Image: The hoard containing around 5,500 Roman silver coins. Cleaning and analysis of the coins is currently underway.

Credit: Kunstsammlungen und Museen Augsburg, Stadtarchäologie. Photo: Andreas Brücklmair

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