Most of the time when we hear about a large discovery of long-forgotten coins, they are found in Europe or the Middle East (with their thousands of years of history using coins), or even along the east coast of America (where trade ships frequently sank with riches on board). This time, however, an incredible find of ancient coins was uncovered in China.
Tons of Copper, Literally
The unbelievable cache of copper coins were located in the ancient imperial tomb of the Marquis of Haihun State. The site is situated in East China in the present-day Jiangxi Province. Beyond the excitement surrounding the intriguing contents of the tomb, the researchers working at the tomb hope their discovery can tell us more about how the aristocracy in Ancient China lived.
In total, there are 2 million of the wuzhu coins They feature square holes in the center of the coins, a distinct feature of Chinese money during this period. (Other areas of China used circular holes. Even further back into antiquity, money was fashioned into the shape of a knife or spade in China, depending on the region.) The coins were attached by strings threaded through the square holes in groups of 1,000 each, as per tradition. (This was likely a royal tradition, given the high number of coins.)
The 2 million coins collectively weighed 10 metric tonnes, or over 20,000 pounds! Historical experts estimate that their equivalent value at the time (sometime in the 1st or 2nd century BCE, during the Western Han Dynasty) would be 10 million yuan—or over $1.5 million in terms of U.S. dollars. It is no surprise that this hoard was uncovered in a royal tomb.
That doesn’t necessarily mean these coins will sell for big money, however. It is the size and age of the hoard that interests anthropologists, archaeologists, and other researchers. It also remains to be seen whether or not the artifacts will be held from any private sales for the purposes of studying them.