Unlocking History: The Trier Gold Hoard, An Astonishing 18.5 kg Roman Treasure Trove

In September 1993, work was underway to build a hospital parking lot on Feldstrasse in the German city of Trier, near the Roman bridge.

The city was founded around the year 16 BC. by the Romans as Augusta Treverorum and therefore preserves many buildings and remains from that time, such as the Porta Nigra. That is why it is not unusual that the remains of walls and vaults from the basements of a Roman insula (multi-story residential block) were found in the parking works.

However, the works were not interrupted and the excavators continued their work. On September 9, coin collectors who were inspecting the earth removed by one of the machines found several gold coins in it.

They returned at night with a metal detector and in a short time they had obtained in the excavation hole the fabulous loot of 1,389 Roman aurei (the Roman gold coin that was in use until the year 309 AD, when it was replaced by the solid). Some of the coins were caked due to corrosion and clay.

But before dawn, in one of the basement rooms, they discovered a bronze vessel containing another 561 gold coins. The vessel, which had been broken by one of the excavators that same afternoon, was the original place where all the coins from the discovery had been kept.

Let’s go back to the afternoon of September 9. The earth that had been removed from the Feldstrasse excavation was to be reused as fill material in further work on a car park at the Kockelsberg hotel, which is about 5 kilometers away on a hill. Some collectors followed the truck that was transporting the earth and, when they arrived at the hotel, they spread a rumor that there could be a treasure among the rubble.

The result was that they, the truck drivers, and many hotel guests began to excitedly dig through the dirt. By the end of the afternoon they had found another 400 gold coins, and even the top of the bronze vessel.

Other coins had been appearing throughout the day and night. On the morning of September 10, 19 people, including collectors, handed over all the coins found to the Rheinisches Landesmuseum (Rhineland Regional Museum in Trier). It was the largest treasure ever found of gold coins from the Roman imperial period: 2,650 aurei in total.

Different types of coins from the Trier Treasury | photo Th.Zühmer/Rheinisches Landesmuseum on Wikimedia Commons
The coins together weigh about 18 and a half kilograms, and practically all of them (more than 99 percent) were minted between the years 63 and 168 AD, corresponding to approximately one tenth of all the aureus from that period found to date. moment.

It is unknown to whom such an impressive amount of money belonged, equivalent to 265,000 sesterces. It could be owned by an individual, but also by the imperial administration of the city. As a comparison, it is known that the annual income of the Roman procurator of Trier (the person in charge of finances) was about 200,000 sesterces. It is also speculated that it could be part of the deposit of the temple of Asclepius, which was located nearby.

Since the most recent coins were minted between the years 193 and 196 AD, the treasure has been related to the war between the emperor Septimius Severus and his rival Clodius Albinus, who attacked Trier that year although he did not manage to conquer it. Perhaps the owner or manager of the treasure hid it at the time, and then was never able to return to retrieve it because he died or fled.

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