2,000-year-old Celtic hoard of gold ‘rainbow cups’ discovered in Germany


A volunteer archaeologist has discovered an ancient stash of Celtic coins, “the value of which must have been immense”, in Brandenburg, a state in northeastern Germany.

The 41 gold the coins were minted over 2,000 years ago and are the earliest known Celtic Brandenburg’s golden treasure, announced Manja Schüle, Brandenburg’s Minister of Culture in December 2021.

The pieces are curved, a feature that inspired the German name “regenbogenschüsselchen”, which translates to “rainbow cups”. Much like the legend that there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, “in popular belief rainbow cups have been found where a rainbow touched the Earth“, Marjanko Pilekić, numismatist and research assistant at the Coin Cabinet of the Schloss Friedenstein Gotha Foundation in Germany, who has studied the hoard, told Live Science in an email.

Another element of the lore is that rainbow cups “fall directly from the sky and were considered lucky charms and objects with a healing effect”, Pilekić added. It is likely that peasants often found the old gold coins on their fields after the rain, “cleaned of dirt and shiny”, he said.

Related: A treasure hunter discovers a golden treasure buried by an Iron Age chieftain

The treasure was discovered by Wolfgang Herkt, a volunteer archaeologist with the Brandenburg State Heritage Management and Archaeological State Museum (BLDAM), near the village of Baitz in 2017. After obtaining permission from a landowner to excavate a local farm, he noticed something golden and shiny. “It reminded him of the lid of a small liquor bottle,” Pilekić said. “However, it was a Celtic gold coin.”

After finding another 10 pieces, Herkt reported the find to BLDAM, whose archaeologists brought the hoard total to 41 pieces. “It’s an exceptional discovery that you will probably only make once in your life,” Herkt said. said in a press release. “It’s a good feeling to be able to contribute to the research of the country’s history with such a discovery.”

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The first 11 coins discovered in Brandenburg, Germany. (Image credit: W. Herkt)

By comparing the weight and size of the coins with those of other ancient rainbow cups, Pilekić was able to date the minting of the treasure to between 125 BC and 30 BC, during the Late Iron Age. At this time, the core areas of the Celtic La Tène archaeological culture (c. 450 BC until the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC) occupied the regions of present-day England , France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, southern Germany and the Czech Republic, Pilekić said. In southern Germany, “we find a large number of such rainbow mugs,” he noted.

However, the Celts did not live in Brandenburg, so the find suggests that Iron Age Europe had extensive trade networks.

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A selection of cup shaped Celtic gold coins from Brandenburg, Germany.

A selection of cup shaped Celtic gold coins from Brandenburg, Germany. (Image credit: T. Kersting/BLDAM)
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A 2,000 year old Celtic gold coin in the field where it was found.

A 2,000 year old Celtic gold coin in the field where it was found. (Image credit: W. Herkt)
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A Celt

A Celtic “rainbow cup” coin from Brandenburg, Germany. (Image credit: M. Pilekić)
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A Celtic gold coin without an image from Brandenburg.

A Celtic gold coin without an image from Brandenburg. (Image credit: M. Pilekić)

What was in the treasure?

Of the 41 gold coins, 19 are coins called staters, which have a diameter of 0.7 inches (2 centimeters) and an average weight of 0.2 ounces (7.3 grams), and 22 are staters 1 /4, which have a smaller diameter of 0.5 inches (1.4 cm) and an average weight of 0.06 ounces (1.8 g). The entire stash is imageless, meaning it’s “simple rainbow cuts,” said Pilekić, who is also a doctoral student in coinage, coinage, and archeology. Economics in Antiquity at the Goethe University Frankfurt.

Because the coins in the stash are similar, it’s likely the treasure was deposited all at once, he said. However, it is a mystery why this collection – the second largest treasure trove of “unis” rainbow cups of its kind ever found – ended up in Brandenburg.

“Finding gold in Brandenburg is rare, but no one would expect it to be ‘Celtic’ gold,” Pilekić said. “This discovery again expands the area of ​​distribution of these types of coins, and we will try to find out what this might tell us that we didn’t know yet or thought we knew.”

Originally posted on Live Science.


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