Archaeology

Rare Hoard of 2000-year-old Curved Celtic Gold Coins Found in Germany

Forty-one “curved” Celtic gold coins from 2,000 years ago have been found in northeast Germany in the Brandenburg district where Berlin is located. It is the first ever hoard of Celtic gold treasure found in the Brandenburg district. The curved coins have a beautiful name in German where they are called “rainbow cups,” as reported by Live Science .

The findings were announced and displayed at a press conference led by Brandenburg State Minister for Science, Research, and Culture, Manja Schüle, along with state archaeologist Professor Dr. Franz Schopper, numismatist Marjanko Pilekic, and amateur archaeologist and finder of this hoard, Wofgang Herkt.

A few of the curiously curved Celtic gold coins, which are called “rainbow cups” in German, that were unearthed in a field in the Brandenburg district of Germany. (Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archaeological State Museum)

A few of the curiously curved Celtic gold coins, which are called “rainbow cups” in German, that were unearthed in a field in the Brandenburg district of Germany. ( Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archaeological State Museum )

Celtic Gold Coin Rainbow Cups: Myths and Lucky Charms

Herkt, a voluntary archaeologist at the Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archaeological State Museum (BLDAM), made the discovery in 2017, near the village of Baitz. This was after he had received official permission from the local landowner to search his farm. When Herkt first spotted the hoard of Celtic gold coins he thought he had spotted the top of a small liquor bottle . After the discovery of ten more coins, he reported the find to the Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archaeological State Museum (BLDAM), whose archaeologists found 30 more of the coins nearby the initial find.

Herkt was quoted in a press release by The Brandenburg State Office as saying, “This is an exceptional find that you probably only make once in a lifetime. It is a good feeling to be able to contribute to research into the history of the country with such a find.”

Rainbow cups have an added association of mythical wonder and rural folklore attached to them. According to Marjanko Pilekic, who was quoted by Live Science, rainbow cups were found where rainbows touched the Earth. Pilekic is a numismatist (coin expert) and research assistant at the Coin Cabinet of the Schloss Friedenstein Gotha Foundation in Germany. He is also a doctoral candidate of archaeology of coinage, money and the economy in Antiquity at Goethe University, Frankfurt.

Ms Pilekic also added that another part of the lore around rainbow cups is that since they fell from the sky, and as such were considered to be lucky charms and healing objects . She further dated the minting of the coins to between 125 and 30 BC, which coincides with the late Iron Age, when Celtic La Tene culture dominated much of western Europe. The La Tene culture flourished in France, England, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, southern Germany, and the Czech Republic between 450 BC and the Roman invasions and conquests in the 1st century BC.

Another view of the curiously curved rainbow-cup Celtic gold coins found in the Brandenburg hoard. (Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archaeological State Museum)

Another view of the curiously curved rainbow-cup Celtic gold coins found in the Brandenburg hoard. ( Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archaeological State Museum )

Why Brandenburg? The Mystery of Complex Currencies

Incidentally, finds of this nature have been found in southern Germany several times. However, there is no evidence of Celts having lived in Brandenburg or nearby. Therefore, the gold coins are more evidence of the extent of Celtic trading networks in the late Iron Age before the Romans came and conquered.

It is noteworthy that these coins are plain and have no symbols, busts, images, or notable insignia on them. They were also deposited all at once since the stage of preservation and design remains exactly the same across the hoard.

“It is rare to find gold in Brandenburg, but no one would have expected it to be ‘Celtic’ gold of all things,” said Pilekic. “This find extends the distribution area of these coin types once again, and we will try to find out what this might tell us that we did not yet know or thought we knew.”

There is popular myth that suggests that the Celtics only engaged in barter trade and did not use coins. However, this myth stems from the fact that we know so little about Celtic La Tene culture trading practices and monetary systems. What we do know is that higher-value gold coinage was used much more than silver coinage. This would partially explain the Brandenburg Celtic gold coin hoard. It was only after the Roman conquest of this region of Europe that silver and bronze coins became common currency.

The mystery of why Europe’s second largest rainbow cup hoard ever was found in the northern Berlin region remains unsolved at this stage. Further study and archaeological evidence are required to make historically accurate linkages. For now, a presentation of the coins in the Archaeological State Museum in Brandenburg is currently being prepared, according to the aforementioned press release.

Top image: A sampling of the 41 curved Celtic golden coins from the late Iron Age found not far from present-day Berlin, Germany. Source: Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archaeological State Museum

By Sahir Pandey


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