Late last year, a fantastic cache of gold coins dating to the late Roman Empire were found in the heart of the Netherlands in the central province of Gelderland.
Gold solidii (singular: solidus) coins, which were the flagship gold coin of Rome and thus much of the civilized world at that time, were found grouped together in an orchard. There were 23 of them in total, and they dated all the way back to the 4th and 5th centuries CE!
Window Into History
The coins will be the first significant hoard of antiquities to be processed by the Portable Antiquities system of the Netherlands, a new body introduced last year. It’s based on the Portable Antiquities Scheme in the U.K.
The U.K. is an excellent model for the Dutch to emulate in regard to the rare coins, treasure, and other antiquities that are found in the country. Although this system is just now coming into existence in the Netherlands, it followed the precedent set by the U.K. Since 1996, the treasure trove laws in Great Britain have been the most equitable in the world.
In the U.K. the system incentivizes treasure finders, landowners, and the museums that preserve such relics to interact and cooperate. However, the penalties for not following protocol, such as promptly reporting where the item was discovered so that archaeologists can document and study the location, can be severe.
These coins date to a time when the western part of the Roman Empire was collapsing. This led the empire to shift its capital to the east in Byzantium, where it thrived for another 1,000 years.
The place where the coins were discovered, interestingly enough, appears to be a burial mound that dates back much farther. Bones in the mound were carbon-dated to about 1800 BCE, during the ancient period known as the Bronze Age.
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