A treasure trove of Celtic coins found in Switzerland

A treasure trove of Celtic coins found in Switzerland

A treasure of some 300 Celtic silver coins has been found in the town of Füllinsdorf, near Basel in the northern switzerland. They were found by a private person who was working as treasure hunters for the archaeological department of the canton. First, he found a small number of coins that were buried under some few centimeters of soil and then alerted the official archaeologist. At that time a total of 293 silver coins were found distributed by area of about 538 square feet, all of them under the surface, being the largest number of coins Celts ever found in Switzerland.

The coins are of a type known as quinary, a small piece of silver that is worth half a denarius. When Rome first issued the denomination in 211 BC, it was called Quinary because was worth five (equivalent to 5 pounds of copper coin). When they were reissued in 101 BC, they were still considered half a denarius, but the monetary reform made the denarius worth 16, so the quinary had a value of eight.

The Celts used to wear the Roman coins as a model but modifying your data. His coins were smaller, one centimeter in diameter and two grams in weight. The Roman quinary had a figure with Palas helmet, after Victory, on the obverse, and the Dioscuro (the divine twins Castor and Pollux) on horseback on the reverse.

The Celtic version also has a victory helmet on the obverse, but made in the Celtic style and with a single horse on the reverse. They also had a written greek name on the reverse: KAΛETEΔOY, or Kaletedou in the Latin alphabet. There are two different types of quinary in the treasure, one prior to the other and both made with man Kaletedou. We do not know who or what it represents, but archaeologists believe that it is a personal name, probably belonging to some Gallic chief.

Obverse with Kaletedou horse

Cantonese archaeologists believe that the coins were buried in 80-70 BC. Although they were found scattered, they were probably initially buried by someone looking for a safe place to hide them. There is no archaeological evidence of a settlement or structure near the site. The Celts used to bury treasures to safeguard them sometimes near a shrine, so the deity could keep it.

We do not know the purchasing power of the bronze, silver and gold coins in this area at that time, but the evidence suggests that the money economy was more conducive to urban centers than in the rural towns or semi-urban settlements where the Celts lived (in the Füllinsdorf area it could have been the Rauraci, a client tribe of the Helvetii). The interregional and international trade of the Mediterranean people settled in the area in the first century BC.

Reverse of the coin

After 80 B.C., trade declined interrupted by local wars among the tribal leaders pressured by the Germanic peoples and by the invading forces of Rome. The population began to leave sparsely populated areas to go to the safety of fortified cities. Under increasing pressure, in 61 BC, the Helvetii, in collaboration with other Celtic tribes of what is now Switzerland, planned a mass migration to the Atlantic coast of France. Julius Caesar stopped them, in which we know as the first victory in the Gallic Wars.

The Celtic treasure from Füllinsdorf will be displayed in the canton museum from March 31 to September 23, 2012.

Graduated in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was little I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.


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