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the Como hoard: 1000 roman aurei in a jug.

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Hoping to please you, I want to bring to your attention this recent discovery of uncirculated gold coins in Como (Italy) near Milan.

Source: https://www.archaeoreporter.com/2022/05/21/tesoro-romano-di-como-mille-solidi-doro-che-gettano-luce-sulla-fine-dellImpero-lo-speciale-e- all-videos/
NB: automatic translation by Google

Treasure is the most direct term without mincing words, without using the term hoard which is often used in archaeology, to designate coins or precious objects buried in uncertain periods, to make them escape raids, to keep them safe while foreign armies descend from the valleys and they invade a territory, as happened in Italy in the 5th century AD. The term treasure is often used inappropriately, to "make a headline", but in this case it is more than appropriate.

  On the morning of 5 September 2018, the classic construction transformation of a building which, in itself, represents a sort of archeology of the end of entertainment in Italy, is being excavated in the area of the former Cressoni Theater in Como, in via Diaz. First theatre, then transformed into cinema, bringing together both crises, that of the stage and that of the big screen. A kind of synthesis of eras that are passing away, sacrificed by changes in ways of life. Like ancient theaters, or amphitheatres, if we think about it.

In short, the archaeological investigation, which we would define as preventive for simplicity, but which technically-bureaucratically would not be "preventive", is carried out by Sap professionals under the watchful eye of the superintendency. The work is finishing, the ground is soaked due to the water table, the surveys of late ancient environments have been made, even if the function is not understood very well, given the overall limited area of investigation. It is at that point that the excavator's bucket hits something. We write down an acronym, US (i.e. stratigraphic unit) 118A, which filled compartment A. If we wanted to define the typology it would be a sort of dark layer, they tell us, that is, those dark layers of humus, which are typical of urban archaeology. of late ancient or early medieval realities, when, to put it briefly, vegetable gardens and various crops also opened in the city fabric. US 118 A instead unites many things. On the one hand, archeology as imagined by non-archaeologists. That is, the surprising discovery that draws everyone's attention. On the other hand, the one that gives the media so much pleasure, as they can finally use the title "Treasure discovered" without falling into a clichéd phrase that is empty of meaning. Then there is the side of the archaeologists, who beyond the "classic" type treasure, the one with the precious discovery, begin to set in motion all their professional connections: the study of the economy of the period, the numismatic relevance, the political-military-territorial correlation, laboratory analyses, connections with written sources, material comparisons of the finds, analysis of novelties and recurrences.

In short, what does that bucket affect? A soapstone container, which analysis will later reveal comes from Val Malenco. A curious truncated cone-shaped object, with a lid, similar to a large jug, or a mug of Bavarian beer. Used in the kitchen, as the clear signs of use on the stove suggest.


The excavator had acted prudently under the eye of three archaeologists, but the object had arrived unexpectedly, unseen, with a slight, almost providential, breakage.


Inside, the unmistakable sparkle of gold, lots of gold. They are coins. Don't throw away in bulk, but very tidy. It immediately appears that these are solids from the late imperial period. We are talking about the "safest" currency for these uncertain centuries of transformation. So certain that, in subsequent centuries, the solid will be referred to as the currency par excellence, deriving the term soldo from those gold coins, weighing 1/72 of a pound, i.e. just over 4.5 grams per litre. 'a. A coinage that was truly worth "its weight in gold", because we are talking about a very high degree of purity. Proudly declared, on each solid, by the acronym OB, i.e. (aurum) obryziacum, which means pure, or "purified" gold.


The olla is taken care of by the superintendency, and subjected to what is defined as a micro-excavation in the laboratory, managed by Grazia Facchinetti, an archaeological official of the superintendence and a numismatic expert. Practically a stratigraphic investigation of the contents of the soapstone container. From which we understand that the coins were arranged in orderly piles, probably enclosed in cloth, as now appears with the plastic blisters or the more classic "packets" that collect the coins for the traders who are in the bank. The number of solids immediately catches the eye: exactly one thousand, not one more, not one less. It was therefore an asset in the hands of an administration, an accountant, probably of public origin. Most of the coins are struck by the Mediolanum mint (639 examples). The city had been the imperial capital, and the mint was still functioning when this hoard was composed, with coins minted between 395 and 472 AD.

As many as 744, however, were minted after 455, so we are literally talking about the last flashes, and not just monetary, of the Western Roman Empire. The last minted coin present in the Como treasure, in fact, dates back only four years to the canonical date of the end of the ancient age, with the deposition of the emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476 AD.




There are eight emperors represented, together with four Augustes. Only 96 solids out of 1000 are struck by ateliers in the eastern part of the empire. All the coins were restored with the resources of the superintendency and patient work. But that's not enough, because the Roman treasure of Como, in addition to the late imperial solids, is also made up of gold jewels and processing material for the goldsmith's activity. In particular, these are three rings, probably male (one diameter, for example, is 27.7 mm), with traces of use. In the setting, in two cases, an emerald (probable identification awaiting petrographic investigation) and a beautiful cabochon garnet (i.e. devoid of facets). The other is a valuable "basket" artefact made entirely of gold. Then there were three earrings, a pair and an isolated one, perhaps a pendant, evidently in progress and not finished. As evidence of the work of a jeweler's atelier, a portion of a broken ingot (about 23 grams), a bar, a drop of gold and some thin gold threads, validating the thesis that all the available gold had been carefully gathered before being hidden in the soapstone container. It is not excluded that, in the case of gold from the imperial administration, the jewels were also destined to be melted down for minting in the Mediolanum mint, which is hypothesized to be identifiable in a building with powerful walls, over 6 meters thick, identified in Piazza Mentana in the Lombardy capital.


Who could be the owner of such a huge sum shortly before the fall of the empire? The identikit is proposed by Facchinetti herself, well aware that this is a hypothesis that is difficult to verify, given the current state of studies. A private person of senatorial rank or a public fund, in this case probably Milanese? These are the possibilities, together with a third, not at all unlikely: that of a theft, or a fraudulent shortfall. Only one thing is certain: the fact that whoever had hidden them, never got them back, and certainly for a very serious reason. A reason which, even if he managed to transmit this secret to someone he trusted, prevented anyone from regaining possession of it.

How much is this treasure worth? We are talking about about five kilos of gold, and an immense numismatic value, which the State has quantified, according to well-defined parameters, at four million euros. As often happens in these exceptional cases, when there are legal rewards for the private owners of the area, it ends up in litigation. But we are not interested in either the figures or the courtroom implications. The true value of the treasure is that offered by an incredible glimpse of the end of the empire, where we glimpse the imperial administration, the technological chain of the work of the mints, the complex symbolism of power contained in the images of the coins, the continuous transformation of the elites and of sovereigns, often at the top for a few months, in the whirlwind fifth century. The glow of gold, in this case, is a beacon that casts a very deep cone of light far beyond written sources.



Edited by Vel Saties
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Posted (edited)

The Notiziario of the State Numismatic Portal on the COMO treasure
pdf version






Link to the State Printing Office and Mint for the purchase of the paper volume



Edited by Vel Saties
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  • Vel Saties changed the title to the Como hoard: 1000 roman aurei in a jug.

Reminds me of Bare Nostrum Hoard that appeared in Roma Auction. When these were found/ the coins almost ended up melted down for gold content. Luckily someone saved them/ and most now are in private collections. I was able to get MS Anthemius Rome solidus and a Salus Republicae type from Basiliscus & Marcus  for great price/ under 6K for both. 

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Posted · Supporter

This is an amazing hoard. I am looking forward to seeing it published with all coins listed and photographed. It should be a great source for numismatic and historical studies.

Of interest, do Brera and other numismatic collection in Milan have online collections of late Roman and Ostrogothic period coins? Arlan has published a few interesting coins, but I hope there are many more.

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2 hours ago, Tejas said:

I spend Easter weekend in Como, but didn’t find any coins

We didn't see each other for a while

13 minutes ago, Rand said:

Milan have online collections of late Roman and Ostrogothic period coins?

unfortunately not. in Italy we are strange....

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19 minutes ago, Rand said:

I am looking forward to seeing it published with all coins listed

The treasure was published from an archaeological point of view.
There is a catalogue, concordances and images by type

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Posted (edited)


For complete catalog cards, please refer to the virtual showcases of the State Numismatic Portal (https://www.numismaticadellostato.it/web/pns/patrimonio/vetrine/como) where all photographs of the coins are also present.

On the pages of the portal you can find the few online numismatic collections: https://www.numismaticadellostato.it/web/pns/patrimonio/vetrine

but they are a microscopic part of the collections dispersed among museums, sovrintendenze archeologiche, universities, institutions, foundations and private collections in Italy

Edited by Vel Saties
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Posted · Supporter

Thank you, @Vel Saties! The treasure has been exceptionally analysed and presented. I applaud the public access to the individual coin catalogue. I can only wish this approach became universal.

The coins are breathtaking. Olybrius's solidi are stunning.


Le immagini sono di proprietà della Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le Province di Como, Lecco, Monza e Brianza, Pavia, Sondrio e Varese. https://www.numismaticadellostato.it/web/pns/patrimonio/vetrine/ricerca-avanzata?p_p_id=vetrineFormRicercaAvanzata_WAR_FSIA6_Numismatica10_INSTANCE_M6Mg&p_p_lifecycle=1&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_count=1&_vetrineFormRicercaAvanzata_WAR_FSIA6_Numismatica10_INSTANCE_M6Mg_actionName=dettaglioMonetaVetrina&_vetrineFormRicercaAvanzata_WAR_FSIA6_Numismatica10_INSTANCE_M6Mg_idMoneta=7028&_vetrineFormRicercaAvanzata_WAR_FSIA6_Numismatica10_INSTANCE_M6Mg_navigator=6421&_vetrineFormRicercaAvanzata_WAR_FSIA6_Numismatica10_INSTANCE_M6Mg_javax.portlet.action=invoke

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