Mystery over tonnes of ancient coins found buried in Chinese village

Experts try to solve puzzle of why hundreds of thousands of pieces of everyday money were hidden several centuries ago

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 4:37pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 4:57pm

Villagers in eastern China unearthed a buried hoard of hundreds of thousands of ancient coins while building a house, local media reported.

The treasure trove was found in Fuliang county, Jiangxi province and weighed around 5.6 tonnes, Jiangnan Metropolis Daily reported on Wednesday.

Feng Ruqin, head of Fuliang County Museum, told the newspaper that preliminary investigations suggested the haul consisted of 300,000 pieces of copper coinage that dated back 800 years to the time of the Song dynasty (960-1279).

Feng said it was likely that the coins had been buried in the same era.

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He told the newspaper the two most likely scenarios were that the coins had been collected by a local civic or business group and hidden for future use, or that they were the assets of a small local bank that allowed people to exchange everyday currency for more portable assets, such as gold, silver or paper money.

Wars and migrations were common during the Song dynasty as the empire suffered invasions from the north and its rulers moved southward to establish a new capital in the province near where the coins were discovered.

The money appeared to have been buried in a hurry and were most likely to have been owned by a local organisation, Feng added.

He also told the newspaper that it might take two or three years to clean and identify the exact date of the coins.

The money was found by locals working on a house on October 13 in Cha village, near Jingdezhen, a city that has been famed as the “capital of porcelain” since the third century.

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Local website Jingdezhen Online said that police and experts from the local Ceramics Archaeology Institute had been called to inspect the site.

It was barricaded before excavation work was carried out on October 22.

Under the Chinese Civil Relic Protection Law, all items found at such sites should be handed to the government for research purposes, Jiangnan Metropolis Daily reported.

The antique coppers are not likely to prove especially valuable – certainly not compared with ancient gold or silver coinage.

However, the newspaper reported that some villagers had been digging to see if there was more buried treasure after the archaeologists had finished their excavations.