A construction crew in northern Italy unearthed an ancient storage jug and was surprised to find that the vessel alone was not the only discovery.
The Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities said that that the jug, an amphora, held about 300 gold coins that date back more than 1,500 years, LiveScience reported Tuesday.
The amphora and coins are estimated to be from 474 A.D., around the time that the Roman Empire was collapsing. After finding the artifacts in Como, Italy, while working on the site of an abandoned movie theater, the construction crew called in a team of archaeologists. The excavators determined that the jug likely once held wine or olive oil, making it unusual that this particular amphora was used as a piggy bank for a considerable treasure trove.
While several sites have turned up ancient coins, it's rare to find so many in one place — and gold coins in particular. The ministry called it an "extraordinary discovery," reports LiveScience. Because the coins were hidden away in the amphora, they are in remarkable condition, a lead archaeologist told the Times of London. "More than exceptional, it's epochal," said Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli, "one of those discoveries that marks the course of history." Summer Meza