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Jar of Gold Coins Found in Theater Basement

Como, Italy —(Map)

Workers in Como, Italy, who were busy tearing down an old theater, found a surprise waiting for them in the basement. A 1,500 year old stone jar full of gold coins.

City of Como, Italy.
The city of Como has a long history going back to Julius Caesar.
Many buildings in Como are built on top of buildings from long ago.
(Source: Daniel Case, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Como, a city in northern Italy, near Switzerland, has a long history. The city’s center and street layout was decided by Julius Caesar. Over 1,500 years ago, there was an important Roman market area there called “Novum Comum”. Many of the buildings that exist in Como today were built on top of places where buildings used to exist long, long ago.

In 1870, the Cressoni Theater opened as a place where operas could be performed. In 1913, it was turned into a movie theater. Finally, in 1997, the theater shut down for good.

Cressoni Theater
The coins were found in the Cressoni Theater.
The theater opened in 1870 and finally closed in 1997.
(Source: Dicomedomodossola, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Earlier this year, a company began tearing down the inside of the Cressoni Theater. Workers left the outside walls up, but tore out everything inside. The company plans to turn the building into apartments.

On September 5, workers in the basement of the Cressoni found a stone jar with two handles. Inside the jar were lots of gold coins.

Stone jar found in corner of Cressoni Theater basement.
Workers were tearing down the Cressoni Theater to build apartments.
People working in the basement found a stone jar with hundreds of gold coins.
(Source: Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Italy.)

Special scientists, called “archeologists”, were called in. Archeologists study the past by looking at things left by people who lived long ago. The archeologists carefully removed the jar and took it to a laboratory in Milan. They will also keep looking in the Cressoni Theater to see if they can find anything else.

Cracked amphora with lid, Roman coins inside.
Scientists took the jar to a laboratory in Milan.
They will clean and study the treasure there.
(Source: Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Italy.)

The jar was made of a soft kind of stone, called “soapstone”. Inside the jar, were more than 300 Roman gold coins and a gold bar.

“It’s practically an entire collection, unlike anything else ever found in northern Italy,” said Luca Rinaldi, who is in charge of archeology in the area. “Sometimes coins that are found are stuck together but these are all separate, it was like opening a wallet.”

Cracked Amphora containing Roman coins
Scientists are excited about the unusual discovery.
One said, “It was like opening a wallet.”
(Source: Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Italy.)

In the laboratory, the scientists will carefully clean and study the coins. But already they know that the coins are from the late Roman period. The coins were made under several different Roman leaders. All of the coins were created before the year A.D. 474.

Old Roman Coins
Over 300 gold coins from before A.D. 474 were found.
They were stacked in rolls like you see in a bank.
(Source: Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Italy.)

Maria Grazia Facchinetti is an expert in rare coins. She says the coins may have belonged to a bank or something like it. She said the coins were “buried in such a way that in case of danger they could go and retrieve (get) it”. She said the coins “were stacked in rolls similar to those seen in the bank today.”

Because the coins and the bar are made of gold, the treasure is clearly worth a lot of money. But the main value of the discovery lies in what it can teach us about the past.


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