Lonely Planet Writer

Hundreds of gold Roman coins were just discovered in Italy

The Roman Empire ended formally in 476 AD (at least the Western one) and yet archaeologists never stop finding artefacts and objects dating back to the days of Ancient Rome, especially in Italy. The latest finding to see the light in the Bel Paese (Beautiful Country) was an amphora filled with hundreds of gold coins.

Around 300 gold coins were discovered. Photo by the Italian Ministry of Culture (MiBAC)

The discovery was made right in the centre of Como, a city in Northern Italy barely an hour drive away from Milan, on 5 September. The soapstone amphora (a wonder in itself since its shape is one that has never been seen before by archaeologists) was slightly damaged during excavation works for the restoration of a theatre, and the coins spilt out. The old Roman forum of the city of Novum Comum (Como’s Latin name) is not that far away, so it makes sense that the coins were found there.

The amphora was found during excavation works for the renovation of a theatre. Photo by the Italian Ministry of Culture (MiBAC)

The precious cargo was immediately transported to a restoration lab in Milan, where archaeologists and numismatists immediately started another excavation, this time on a much smaller scale, to extract all of the coins from the amphora. So far, of the 300 coins in the amphora, twenty-seven have been removed and each one of them has been found to be made from pure gold. Each coin weighs around 4 grams – they all date to the 5th century AD, and none seem to have been coined after 474 AD. Estimating how much the coins are worth will be a slow process because, as the supervisor Luca Rinaldi said in the press conference to present the discovery, “one can’t think to empty the amphora as if it was a piggy bank.”

At the same press conference, the Italian Minister of Culture Alberto Bonisoli called the coins “a momentous discovery,” and declared himself very proud of it. He also hypothesised that the quantity of the coins and the presence inside the amphora of a small gold bar could be a sign of a public deposit since it’s unlikely that many coins belonged to a single person. The minister also said that the plan would be for the coins to return to Como once the restoration process is complete and put on display there. So keep an eye out and you might soon be able to see the coins for yourself.