Generations of starving actors at this Italian theater probably would have liked to know that there was a hidden stash of gold coins right under their noses. The historic Cressoni Theater in Como closed in 1997 and has since been demolished, but the site is now being excavated in preparation for its repurposing as residential apartments. The coins, uncovered during the excavation and dating back to the 4th or 5th century, were spilling out of a soapstone jar buried in the dirt and were stacked in rolls. According to CNN, rare coins expert Maria Grazia Facchinetti said at a press conference that whoever buried the jar did so “in such a way that in case of danger they could go and retrieve it.”
The coins bear the engravings of late Roman emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leon I, Antonio, and Libio Severo, leading Facchinetti to believe that “the owner is not a private subject, rather it could be a public bank or deposit.” And as it turns out, just because the coins are old, it doesn’t mean they’ve lost their value. Como’s local archaeology superintendent, Luca Rinaldi, told London’s The Times that the value of the coins is inestimable, and that “we are talking about an exceptional discovery.”
The discovery of ancient Roman coins in Italy might not sound too surprising, but treasures of the Roman Empire actually seem to have a penchant for turning up all over the place. In 2016, archaeologists discovered a 2,000-year-old Roman coin in Jerusalem, and similar coins have been found as far east as Japan.
The Como treasure stash has been transferred to a restoration laboratory in Milan, where archaeologists hope to learn even more about their cultural and historical significance.