Coins from Roman times: The silver treasure of Augsburg

Coins from Roman times: The silver treasure of Augsburg
Coins from Roman times: The silver treasure of Augsburg

Status: 10/20/2021 10:00 a.m.

More than 15 kilograms of silver coins from Roman times have been discovered in Augsburg. There is talk of the largest Roman silver treasure in Bavaria. Researchers hope to gain new insights into the life of the Romans.

Stefan Krmnicek from the Institute for Classical Archeology at the University of Tübingen turns the lock on the safe, enters a numerical code, then pushes a lever to the side and pulls the centimeter-thick steel door open. Together with his doctoral student Leo Brei, he enters the university safe. The coins from Augsburg are ready for restoration in five gray plastic boxes. It is the largest Roman silver treasure that has been found on Bavarian territory to date. Each coin is individually packed in a plastic bag and numbered. There are around 5500 coins in total.

“This amount of money must have been enormous by ancient standards,” says Krmnicek. They weigh a total of around 15 kilograms. “It is certainly not owned by someone who belonged to the lower social pyramid. This is most likely to think of people who were active in the military or in trade.”

The coins were found individually distributed in a construction pit in the Oberhausen district

Image: BR

Dirt and corrosion

But these are still conjectures. Because the work is only just beginning for the archaeologists. Every coin must now be freed from dirt and corrosion. It is then photographed from both sides, digitally cataloged and numbered. Only when the researchers have examined each coin and the overall picture is available can they draw conclusions. It is quite possible that new – possibly groundbreaking – insights into the life of the Romans in Augsburg during the first and second centuries AD will come to light.

In addition to the silver treasure, there is a second treasure for the researchers: namely the fortunate fact that the exact location is known. “We have the rare case here that there is a really massive treasure find that has been archaeologically recovered during proper archaeological field work,” explains Krmnicek. “That means that it is a fully documented find. We have all the find-contexts, all the find-information.” This is the only reason why the researchers can “ask questions” of the treasure, as Krmnicek calls it: “Why was this treasure deposited? When was it deposited? Why was it deposited in Augsburg at all? All the questions that we ask about ancient people and the function of this treasure. “

“Augusta Vindelicum”

The coins were found individually distributed in a construction pit in the Oberhausen district, which is the nucleus of the city. There the stepsons of Emperor Augustus founded around 15 BC. A military camp that was later also used as a supply depot. That is why Augsburg is the second oldest city in Germany after Trier. Later, Emperor Hadrian granted the “Augusta Vindelicum” settlement, which had arisen around the military camp, city rights. A time about which very little is known in relation to the history of the city of Augsburg.

The head of Augsburg city archeology looks at an oil lamp. It is one of the most important finds from Roman times in Augsburg for more than 100 years. As the city announced, about 15 kilos of silver coins were found during the excavations at the site.

Image: dpa

The fact that the treasure find falls during this time is another stroke of luck for the researchers and underlines the importance of the find. “Coins from the Roman Empire are basically the mass medium of antiquity,” explains Krmnicek. The pictures that are printed on the coins, for example, give an impression of the values ​​that prevailed at the time. Krmnicek puts on rubber gloves and carefully picks up one of the fingernail-sized coins. “On this coin we have the emperor Hadrian on the obverse and on the reverse a representation of a female figure that we have not yet determined,” he says. “Even 1000 kilometers away from Rome, the portrait of the emperor was present. Everyone had seen this picture, from the poorest beggar to the richest provincial governor. This coin was also an instrument of rule.”

The coins should be researched in about three years. Then the question arises as to where they are exhibited. Because in Augsburg, the city that is more rich in Roman history than almost any other in Germany, the Roman Museum has been closed for years. It is a rehabilitation case.

More than 15 kilograms of silver coins from Roman times discovered in Augsburg

Andreas Herz, BR, Tagesschau 12:00 p.m., October 20, 2021

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