A Woman Went for a Casual Walk—and Accidentally Discovered a One-in-a-Million Treasure

trunk in woodland with glow inside
Medieval Denarii ‘Jackpot’ UnearthedDougal Waters - Getty Images
  • A woman walking in the Czech Republic stumbled upon more than 2,150 early medieval silver coins.

  • Originally stored in a ceramic pot during a time of political turmoil, the coins have sat in place since the first quarter of the 12th century.

  • Museum staff will now analyze and restore the denarii.

A ceramic pot turned into a jackpot for a woman on a walk in the Kutnohorsk Region of the Czech Republic. While out on a stroll, the woman happened upon a roughly 900-year-old stash of more than 2,150 medieval silver coins known as denarii.

While the ceramic pot holding the coins was mostly demolished, the coins themselves remain a rich collection. According to a translated statement, they are now being processed by experts from the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, and the Czech Silver Museum in Kutná Hora.

Dubbed one of the greatest finds of the last decade, institute archaeologist Filip Velímský believes the discovery is like winning a prize in the lottery—even if someone else was the loser. “It was probably placed in its place during the first quarter of the 12th century, at a time of internal political instability,” he said. “At that time, there were disputes in the country between the members of the Přemysl dynasty about the princely throne of Prague.”

Stashing coins in a ceramic container was meant to be a way of keeping them safe. And the container certainly did it’s job, even if the owner was never able to return for them—the coins weren’t recovered for another 900 years.

According to the experts, that owner couldn’t have been just anyone.“Unfortunately, for the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries, we lack data on the purchasing power of the contemporary coin,” Velímský said. “But it was a huge amount, unimaginable for an ordinary person and at the same time unaffordable. It can be compared to winning a million in the jackpot.”

The Kutnohorsk Region was known for frequent battles for the Prague princely throne, with the armies of individual rival princes repeatedly marching through the area, according to the institute. The experts claim that a large collection of coins found in such a place could mean that they were originally meant to pay wages for soldiers, or were some sort of “war booty.”

Early analysis of the haul shows both that the coins were minted in several places throughout the Kutnohorsk Region, and that they were likely created under the rule of three different Přemysl leaders (likely between 1085 and 1107): King Vratislav II and princes Břetislav II and Bořivoje II.

“The coins were most likely minted in the Prague mint from silver that was imported to Bohemia at the time,” Lenka Mazačová, director of the Czech Silver Museum in Kutná Hora, said in a statement. The coins are made from an silver alloy that included copper, lead, and trace amounts of other metals. The experts hope to figure out the exact composition of the coins to help determine the origin of the silver.

While we may never know the true intentions—or provenance—of the coin collection, experts still plan to puzzle out as much as possible. Mazačová said that museum staff will now register all the pieces of the collection, clean and restore the coins, and subject them to X-ray imaging and spectral analysis to determine their specific material composition. The goal is to publicly display the collection in 2025, highlighting the 12th century history of the Czech Republic.

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