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A Glint In A Molehill Reveals Treasure Trove Of 4,000 Ancient Coins

A farmer in northern Switzerland has uncovered a treasure trove in his cherry orchard — more than 4,000 well-preserved Roman coins.

The ancient numismatic stash first came to light in July, after the farmer saw "something shimmering in a molehill," the BBC reports.

The farmer lives in Ueken, in Switzerland's Aargau canton, and knew that a Roman settlement had recently been uncovered in the nearby town of Frick, the BBC says. So he reached out to archaeologists, who spent several months excavating the site.

They announced their findings Thursday: 4,166 third-century Roman coins, one of the biggest stashes ever found in Switzerland.

The coins were in excellent condition — so good that the archaeologists concluded the owner had tucked them away shortly after they were minted, The Guardian reports. The newspaper continues:

"For some reason that person had buried them shortly after 294 and never retrieved them. Some of the coins, made mainly of bronze but with a 5% silver content (an unusually high amount), were buried in small leather pouches.

"The archaeologists said it was impossible to determine the original value of the money due to rampant inflation at the time, but said they would have been worth at least a year or two of wages."

As for the value of the coins today, archaeologist Georg Matter told The Guardian it was "beside the point" — the farmer might get a finder's fee, but following Swiss law, the coins were the property of the public.

They'll be displayed at a museum in Brugg, Aargau, in Switzerland.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.