Archaeologists puzzled by the discovery of a Roman pot filled with lamps and coins in Switzerland


Once again harking back to the Roman legacy in ancient central Europe, researchers have found an earthenware pot of Roman origin filled with oil lamps and bronze coins in the commune of Windisch, located in the northern Swiss canton of Aargau. Discovered during an archaeological examination prior to the commencement of a commercial construction project, the pot and its contents are probably around 2,000-years old. This date corresponds with the time-period of the Roman Vindonissa military camp, which was located near modern-day Windisch. But while earlier excavations have also yielded evidence of ancient Roman occupation of the proximate area, archaeologists are baffled by the unique arrangement of the coins and the lamps inside the pot.


To that end, the cooking pot in itself is typical of the type used by the Roman legionaries at Vindonissa. However the mysterious part pertains to how each of the bronze coins were placed quite carefully atop the lamps (22 in number), thus suggesting a particular type of a ritual. Interestingly enough, the lamps in themselves are embellished with depictions of many figure-based forms, including the Moon goddess Luna, a gladiator, a lion, a peacock and even an erotic scene.

On the other hand, the Roman bronze coins (known as asses in plural), dating from 66-67 AD, are not of high value, which in turn rather reinforces the conjecture that the monetary items were only used for some symbolic significance. Additionally the pot was also found to have charred remains of animal bones, as opposed to humans, thus ruling out the scenario of the vessel being used as an urn. Aargau cantonal archaeologist, Georg Matter, said –

What astonished us was the quantity and the combination of coins and lamps. We suspect this is a ritual burial.


Finally, as for the historical side of events, the Vindonissa legion camp (derived from Gaulish toponym – *windo, meaning ‘white’) was possibly founded in 15 AD and later expanded with thermae (thermal bathing facilities) and stone fortifications. However by 2nd century AD, the camp and its proximate area were converted into a civilian settlement, and even more fortifications were built after 4th century AD.


Ancient Roman walls inside Vindonissa.

Source: Canton of Aargau (Official Site) / Via: The Local

All Images Credit: Aargau Canton Archaeology Department

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