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Dog digs up huge haul of medieval coins in Poland


A rare collection of bracteates – thin, single-sided medieval coins – has been dug up by a dog near the city of Wałbrzych in southwestern Poland. Experts say the items – which date back to the 13th century – are the first such large discovery in over a hundred years.


Dog digs up huge haul of medieval coins in Poland
Credit: Lower Silesia Heritage Protection Office

The Wałbrzych branch of the Lower Silesia heritage protection office was alerted by the owner of the dog, named Kajtuś, about his rare find earlier this month. They immediately dispatched a team, including archaeologists from the University of Wrocław, to investigate.




“The person who contacted us was out walking the dog,” Anna Nowakowska-Ciuchera, the Wałbrzych Heritage Protection officer, told Gazeta Wyborcza. “Kajtuś started digging in the earth, and that was how he reached the jug with the coins.”


Dog digs up huge haul of medieval coins in Poland
Credit: Lower Silesia Heritage Protection Office

“The objects turned out to be medieval bracteates which were preserved in a damaged earthenware pot,” the Lower Silesia heritage protection office explained. Preliminary findings date the find to the first half of the 13th century and suggest that the coins were minted in Brandenburg, Saxony or Silesia.


“Finding a significant number of coins from this period is an exceptional occurrence,” added the office, because new currencies could be issued as often as two or three times a year, with previous sets of coins being melted down and reminted.


Dog digs up huge haul of medieval coins in Poland
Credit: Lower Silesia Heritage Protection Office

The discovered coins are in excellent condition, with mostly clear prints and little damage. Poland’s biggest collections of bracteates have previously been in Warsaw and Kraków, but the area of the new find will now become a “mecca” for medievalists, the heritage protection office predicts.




For now, however, they do not want to reveal the precise location of the discovery, to discourage amateur metal detectors from arriving, reports Gazeta Wyborcza.


Dog digs up huge haul of medieval coins in Poland
Credit: Lower Silesia Heritage Protection Office

Bracteates (from the Latin bractea, meaning a thin piece of metal) were used as coins in medieval times. They were printed on the obverse, with a concave “negative” of the image on the reverse.


Featuring representations of animals, fantastical designs and elements of architecture, they are an excellent material for medievalist studies, says the heritage protection office.


Dog digs up huge haul of medieval coins in Poland
Credit: Lower Silesia Heritage Protection Office

“The idea of stamping coins from a thin plate was caused by the low availability of ore – silver or, more rarely, gold, and the reserves of the mint. Kings, dukes, and bishops could mint coins,” the heritage protection office explains.




Only with the discovery of silver deposits near Prague did the “euro of medieval Europe”, the Prague groschen, begin to be minted, which gradually took over from bracteates.


Dog digs up huge haul of medieval coins in Poland
Credit: Lower Silesia Heritage Protection Office

The coins are archaeological heritage and will therefore eventually make their way into a museum rather than onto the numismatic market. First, however, they need to be properly studied and conserved – which will require time as well as academic grants.


As for Kajtuś the dog, “with his skills in mind, archaeologists are already making enquiries about his participation in excavations,” the heritage protection office joked.


Author: Ben Koschalka | Source: Notes From Poland [April 23, 2022]



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