According to a press release from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities in Italy, a trove of gold Roman coins has been discovered in the basement of a former theater in Como, north of Milan. The New York Post reports that the Cressoni Theater was being demolished to make room for a luxury residence when a broken soapstone jar was discovered, hundreds of gold coins gleaming within. Construction was halted immediately and will remain stopped while the area is carefully excavated.
Centinaia di monete d'oro della tarda epoca imperiale sono state rinvenute in pieno centro a #Como, in un recipiente in pietra ollare di forma inedita. “Una scoperta che mi riempie di orgoglio” ha detto il ministro @BonisoliAlberto pic.twitter.com/ff6ep38gtG
— MiBAC (@_MiBAC) September 7, 2018
“We do not yet know in detail the historical and cultural significance of this discovery but this area is a real treasure for our archeology,” Cultural Minister Alberto BoniSoli wrote in the press release. The area he refers to is known as the Novum Comum, an ancient Roman settlement upon which modern Como was built. Prior excavations in the Novum Comum have yielded other Roman treasures, according to the Ministry.
The coins were discovered on Wednesday, September 5, and after initial evaluation, were transported to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities laboratory in Milan, where they will be further examined and restored. A press conference is scheduled for Monday, September 10, when more information will be divulged about the discovery.
The value of the coins is hard to estimate, but according to CNN, Italian media indicates that they could be worth millions of euros. Some of the coins appear to date back to the late 5th century Roman imperial era, and most appear to be in pristine condition. At the time of this writing, resale prices for original Roman gold coins on APMEX varied from $2,500 each to $5,500 each, depending on condition. Considering the condition and provenance of these coins, as well as the sheer number of them, estimates in the millions seem reasonable.
The city of Como sits at the southern tip of Lake Como, about 50 km north of Milan. According to the Lake Como History website, the settlement of Comum was conquered by the Romans in 196 BCE. Later, under the rule of Julius Caesar in 59 BCE, the swamp at the southern tip of the lake was drained and Caesar named the newly usable area Novum Comum. With easier access to the water, the settlement prospered as a trade center, which increased the number and variety of coins passing through the area. Now, more than two millenia later, the ruins of Novum Comum have become an archaeological boon for the Italian Cultural Ministry.