A team of archaeologists in Switzerland are trying to make sense of a discovery that traces its origins back nearly two millennia.
Somewhat strangely, a ceramic cooking pot filled with oil lamps and bronze coins was found during an effort to clear residential space in the Swiss canton (province) of Aargau. The items date to the first century C.E.
The researchers are still scratching their heads as to the significance and purpose of the find.
Each of the lamps bears different decorations, such as the moon goddess Luna, or a lion, or a gladiator. There are 22 of these lamps, and each one has a low-denomination bronze coin carefully placed inside. Because of the low value of the coins, which date to about 66 C.E., the archaeological experts are speculating that there is something symbolic and ritualistic about these items.
Adding to the hunch is the fact that there’s no clear practical purpose to the arrangement of items. No signs of human remains or ashes were found, excluding the possibility that this was an urn. Nonetheless, some apparent ritual seems to have involved the coins and lamps.
Adding to the mystery is the fact that no similar ritual artifacts of this kind have ever been found before—in Switzerland or elsewhere. Therefore, researchers really have nothing to use as comparison.
Of course, even with all of the unknowns, the discovery is still illuminating for what it can offer to modern observers. While previous archaeological work confirmed human habitation in this area of Switzerland, the fact that Roman presence can be confirmed shows that Roman legions apparently made it through the imposing mountains of the Swiss Alps even with the technology of the time period.
Historians and archaeologists alike are perhaps most excited by the puzzling unanswered questions that remain, however.
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