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Augusta Raurica and an Immense Silver Hoard

Augusta Raurica and an Immense Silver Hoard

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The Romans conquered vast regions, ranging from the west of Europe, across to what is now Armenia. They ruled the thousands of miles of north Africa, the lands all along the Mediterranean Sea , and across the waters into Germany. Not only did they conquer and rule, they also built towns and cities, and left behind many astonishing ruins. Augusta Raurica in Switzerland is one such site.

This Roman archaeological site and an open-air museum is one of Switzerland’s most popular heritage sites and provides visitors with real insight into the former empire. It is the largest Classical-era urban center north of the Alps that has not been covered by a later town or city.

A History of Rome’s Augusta Raurica

Augusta Raurica was initially founded as a military colony established to control the Rauraci, a Celtic tribe who lived between the Upper Rhine and the southern foothills of the Jura, in 40 BC. The colony did not flourish and was possibly abandoned during the civil wars that shook the Roman Empire after the assassination of Julius Caesar .

Extent of the Roman Empire under Augustus. (CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Augustus campaigned in the Alpine region and secured the territories of what is modern Switzerland for the Roman Empire. The colony was re-founded in about 6 BC and it became known as Augusta Raurica in honor of its founder, Augustus. It was one of three military settlements designed to secure the Roman frontier along the Lower Rhine.

Augusta Raurica was most likely inhabited by former legionnaires and their families and became a self-governing town, as was the case with many other colonies. By all accounts, it became an important commercial and trade center .

As Augusta Raurica expanded, it became a typical Roman town with amenities, public spaces, and temples. However, during the early years of the Crisis of the Third Century (235-284 AD) the town suffered and was attacked by marauding Alemanni tribes from across the Rhine. It may also have been sacked by mutinous Roman legionnaires at some point. In 250 AD an earthquake all but destroyed the settlement.

During the rule of Diocletian (284-305 AD), who is credited with ending the crisis and ensuring the future survival of the empire, a castle was built not far from the old town and garrisoned by Roman legionnaires. A small urban settlement sprang up around the castle which eventually became a medieval town.

Excavations at Augusta Raurica

Many important archaeological finds, dating from the Roman period and later, have been made at the site. In the 1960s a treasure of silver coins and objects were found near the Roman castle, including an exquisite silver plate inscribed with an image of the Greek hero Achilles.

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The magnificent silver found at Augusta Raurica (CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Archaeologists have also found evidence of how the Romans used snow from the Alps for refrigeration purposes and many of the finds can be seen at a local museum.

The Extensive Sights at Augusta Raurica

Archaeologists have been working on the site for decades and have unearthed and preserved many ancient buildings. These include sections of an amphitheater that could hold up to 10,000 people.

The remains of a 1 st century AD aqueduct, which carried water from the nearby River Liestal, are still standing, as is the forum of Augusta Raurica , which was the town’s main public space, where an assembly chamber for the local council once stood. There are also the remains of the basilica, the commercial heart of the town, and sections of Augusta Raurica’s theatre.

Remains of the old temple complex, Augusta Raurica ( Pixel62 / Adobe Stock)

Smaller buildings to be viewed include the outline and walls of an inn, pottery, and a kiln. The columns of a temple and the remains of a Christian baptistery, one of the earliest in this part of Europe, has been discovered. And the hypocaustum (an ancient system for central heating) used to heat the public baths at Augusta Raurica , is on display.

Perhaps the most impressive remains at the site are the castle with it and military fortification .

Visiting Augusta Raurica

The remarkable site is located in and around the municipality of Kaiseraugst, in the Canton of Aargau, east of Basel.

An admission fee is charged to enter the open-air museum and all the ruins in the ancient town are open to the public. The site is extensive with a great deal to see and for those who wish to delve a little deeper into the history, guides are available. Accommodation in Kaiseraugst, ranging from hotels to hostels, is plentiful.

Top image: Augusta Raurica. Source: dariya/ Adobe Stock

By Ed Whelan

Discover Augusta Raurica, Switzerland’s Roman Town

Augusta Raurica was once a hub of life and one of the most important Roman colonies in Switzerland. Today, it is simply one of the best preserved Roman towns is in Switzerland that gives us a glimpse of how life was 2,000 years ago. Join us as we explore its history and click here to discover more of Switzerland’s historic sites.

Built around 15 BC, its name is derived from the Gallic tribe, the Rauraci, who dwelled in the area. Over time, the town became an important trading post and at its height, it became home to around 20,000 people. Two of its main exports were smoked pork and bacon. But its fortunes didn’t last and when the city of Basel began to ascend in importance in the 7 th century, Augusta Raurica’s importance began to fade. But many of its riches remained and some of them were literally buried in the dirt.

At the site, which is considered one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites in Switzerland, you can delve into one of the colony’s lingering mysteries: why was an immense stash of silver buried at Augusta Raurica and never retrieved?

Other sights are equally as remarkable as this mysterious story (to which there is still no firm answer). It may not shimmer or sparkle, but for history buffs, the opportunity to glimpse the longest accessible wastewater channel that’s survived the Romans will be thrilling, for non-history buffs it will be, well, a giant sewer. At the lapidarium, you’ll wander through stone and marble carvings, depicting the everyday life of prominent figures in the colony. While over at the old bakery, children can have a chance at making their own bread, just like the Romans did.

Perhaps the best time to visit Augusta Raurica, however, is during Roemerfest, Switzerland’s largest Roman festival held during the last weekend in August. Legionnaires, in full battle armour, battle it out and gladiators fight to a (bloodless) death in the old amphitheatre, which seats up to 2,000 people. Away from all the fighting and clashing of swords, you can listen to traditional music, marvel at craftspeople whittling away and taste long-forgotten Roman delicacies. Simply put, you’ll feel like you’ve walked back in time.

The History Blog

A hoard of 293 silver denarii in excellent condition has been unearthed near Pratteln in northwestern Switzerland. There is no surviving container, but the coins were all found in a small hole together, so they had to have been buried in one event. The coins date from the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D., mostly the latter. The oldest denarius in the hoard was minted under the reign of the Emperor Nero, the youngest in Rome under Commodus in 181/182 A.D. The dates of the most recent coins suggest the hoard was cached at the end of the second century.

The total value of the coins at that time would have been significant. Almost 300 silver denarii is the equivalent of half the annual salary of a legionary. It is the second largest assemblage of pure Roman silver ever found in Switzerland, after the treasure of Augusta Raurica (Kaiseraugst) which, while far richer in total weight (58 kilos vs. one kilo) and status pieces (tableware, candelabra, silver bars), its complement of coins was a mere 187. Hoards of thousands of Roman coins have been found, but they are a hundred years younger than the Pratteln coins and the currency was so debased their silver content was practically nil. The denarii of the 1st and 2nd century were 100% silver. The ones of the third century were less than 3% silver.

The hoard of silver denarii was discovered by Archäologie Baselland volunteer Sacha Schneider while on a metal detecting investigation of the slopes of Mount Adlerberg. It was in a wooded area with no conspicuous features that you might expect to mark the spot of buried treasure, but perhaps there was something notable there in the second century A.D. when the hoard was hidden. Archaeologists would never have found it on their own. They’re primarily engaged in salvage excavations in advance of construction or in exploring known sites, so for the past decade they have enlisted volunteers like Schneider to explore the wider landscape and report anything they find. She alerted archaeologists in the Canton capital of Liestal and they excavated the hoard.

Today a suburb of Basel, the whole village of Pratteln is on the Federal Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites and is one of the earliest known areas in the country to have been settled. The oldest artifact ever discovered in Switzerland, a 100,000-year-old hand axe, was found there in 1974. While the village as it is today was built around a monastery and castle in the 11th or 12th century, archaeological remains from the Neolithic, Celtic Iron Age and Roman Empire are evidence of that the area was occupied for millennia.

One of Pratteln’s Roman villas, the rural estate of Kästeli, was one of the largest country homes in the vicinity of Augusta Raurica. The Church of Saint Leodegar at the epicenter of Pratteln’s old town was built in the 13th century over the remains of a Roman villa. That villa would have had a clear view of the Adlerberg slope were the treasure was buried.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 25th, 2019 at 9:02 PM and is filed under Ancient, Treasures. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Time Travel • Ancient Rome

For those of us who are passionate about ancient Rome, and if you are reading this then you are likely among that group, finding the most authentic sites can sometimes become a quest. We may have been disappointed when we first learned that many buildings in Pompeii have been restored over the years. Yet deep down, I imagine every one of us has wished that, for an instant, we could wander the streets and buildings of ancient Rome, to see the sites in all their glory. So when that wistful desire takes hold, here are 6 sites to visit with excellent reconstructions that will allow you to feel, for that moment, that you walked in ancient Rome.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and a part two is most certainly a possibility! If you have favorite Roman “theme parks” that allow you to immerse yourself in ancient times, feel free to make suggestions! Write to us on [email protected] or just leave a comment at the end of this post.

6. Alesia / Alise-Sainte-Reine, France

The site of Julius Caesar’s famous siege, Alesia includes many authentic ancient ruins as well. However, it also has excellent reconstructions of the circumvallation and contravallation fortifications erected by Caesar.

Alesia by Carole Raddato licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The modern town of Alise-Sainte-Reine was constructed at the foot of the ancient hill fort. It has been possible for archaeologists to excavate and preserve a large amount of the Roman town which was built at the Roman remains which have survived, include paved streets (with evidence of the shops that would have lined them), a forum, the lower sections of a theatre and basilica and several houses with well-preserved basements. A building associated with the city’s metalworkers, called the Monument of Ucuetis (a minor Celtic god whose name was found on an inscription in the building) has also been discovered whilst a reasonable amount of the building has survived above ground, its most impressive feature is a beautifully preserved underground chamber.

Not ancient, but also of interest, is a large statue of Vercingetorix, built in 1865, as a symbol of French nationalism. In recent years, the entirety of the hill fort and the fields surrounding it have been turned into the MuséoParc Alésia. This consists of a large museum and visitor’s centre and various Roman reconstructions, including a full-size 100m section of Caesar’s fortifications. The museum offers guided tours of the ancient site throughout the year.

5. Aquincum / Budapest, Hungary

To see an example of a Roman home, check out the Museum of Aquincum in Budapest which includes a fully reconstructed home of a Roman painter.

Painter’s House in the Aquincum Museum, photo by Lóránd Péter licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Museum of Aquincum is rich in archaeological remains, but also offers a possibility to have a look at a fully reconstructed roman house, which is accessible to visitors. The seven rooms building was first excavated in 1941 and then more recently in 2009 and in 2011. Most of the house’s rooms were richly decorated with wall paintings and carved elements were added to the exterior. The area under the house was sloping, so the rooms were constructed on different levels. The first phase of the building was constructed in the first half of the 2nd c. AD, and the house was abandoned in the middle of the 3rd c. after several reconstructions.

The visit of the house offers a detailed view on various aspects of Roman life: the house’ atrium, kitchen (culinia), dining room (triclinium), reception room (tablinum), bedroom (cubiculum) and several others were reconstructed roman furniture and restored wall paintings complete the picture.

4. Augusta Raurica / Augst in Switzerland

Another site blending old and new, Augusta Raurica houses many ancient ruins, as well as an excellent reconstruction of a Roman house and examples of daily Roman life.

Roman Oven Reenactment – Roman Festival at Augusta Raurica – August 2013, photo by Codrin.B licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

An open-air museum protects the impressive ruins of Augusta Raurica today, which lie near the modern village of Augst, east of Basel. Having largely escaped medieval or modern redevelopment, Augusta Raurica is generally considered the best-preserved Roman city north of the Alps. Several structures have survived in a remarkably intact state. Of particular note are the main forum, which includes the Temple of Jupiter and a basilica, and the theatre, which was the largest such edifice north of the Alps, with a seating capacity of up to 10,000. Also of interest are the aqueduct, an amphitheatre, the walls of the later Castrum Rauracense, and the remains of a taberna and other commercial premises.

Finds from the colony are on display at the Roman Museum, which traces the history of Augusta Raurica from its foundation to its eventual decline. Highlights here include a reconstructed house illustrating the daily life of ordinary Roman citizens and a hoard of silver known as the Silver Treasure of Kaiseraugst.

3. Arbeia / South Shields, England

An extensive reconstruction of a Roman fort, this site also hosts many demonstrations and children’s activities.

The reconstructed West gate at Arbeia Roman Fort by Thryduulf licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The outline of the original defensive wall and the interior buildings can be seen on site with the foundations and some partial lower courses remaining. The site has recently undergone extensive renovations with the opening of a cultural centre. Several buildings have been reconstructed at full size to show visitors what they would have looked like under the Romans. These include the praetoria, barracks, and the western gate. The onsite museum also displays artefacts from the site along with a large scale model of the fort in its various phases of construction.

2. Carnuntum / Petronell-Carnuntum, Austria

Carnuntum contains several deeply researched reconstructions of 4 th century Roman homes, including a luxurious villa, craftsman’s home, and baths, among others.

Reconstructed thermae by E-W licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The ruins of Roman Carnuntum have been the subject of intensive investigation over many years. The municipal amphitheatre could seat 13,000 spectators and survives in a reasonable state of preservation. Beside it is the practice arena of the city’s gladiator school, recently reconstructed. The smaller and older military amphitheatre can also be visited. The Roman City Quarter includes four reconstructed urban buildings dating from the fourth century, among them a lavish villa, a middle-class home, baths and a building with a mosaic floor.

The Museum Carnuntinum in Bad Deutsch Altenburg, meanwhile, houses many remarkable finds from the city. Among the most important finds is an altar to Mithras, erected in AD 308 on the occasion of the visit by the emperor Diocletian. Lastly, the Heidentor (meaning ‘heathen’s gate’) is a massive triumphal arch standing 14 metres high and the only structure that survives as more than just foundations or as a reconstruction it was erected in the mid-fourth century during the reign of Constantius II.

1. Ulpia Traiana / Xanten, Germany

The archeological park of Ulpia Traiana is supremely passionate about its reconstructions. Surrounded by a full-size reconstructed Roman wall and gate, the interior boasts villas, houses, a temple, functional amphitheatre, Roman inn, and more. Like Arbeia, it also offers reenactments, demonstrations, and children’s games and activities.

Colonia Ulpia Traiana – Aerial views by Raimond Spekking licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Modern Xanten houses a magnificent Archaeological Park, which is one of the most visited open air museums in Germany. Highlights of this reconstruction of Roman Ulpia Traiana, using materials employed in the original structures, include the amphitheatre and harbour temple. The park now embraces almost the entire area of the original colony. Finds from the site are either on display in Xanten or in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn.

7. Timetravelrome

No, to be honest, there no seventh place in our top-six list. ) But maybe you can find it yourself among >4000 Roman places that are shown on the map and described in our Timetravelrome mobile app? Feel free to download it ! This way you will support this blog.


Discovery and initial excavation Edit

The hoard was discovered in a farm field about 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi) southwest of the village of Hoxne in Suffolk on 16 November 1992. Tenant farmer Peter Whatling had lost a hammer and asked his friend Eric Lawes, a retired gardener and amateur metal detectorist, to help look for it. [8] While searching the field with his metal detector, Lawes discovered silver spoons, gold jewelry, and numerous gold and silver coins. After retrieving a few items, he and Whatling notified the landowners (Suffolk County Council) and the police without attempting to dig out any more objects. [9]

The following day, a team of archaeologists from the Suffolk Archaeological Unit carried out an emergency excavation of the site. The entire hoard was excavated in a single day, with the removal of several large blocks of unbroken material for laboratory excavation. [10] The area was searched with metal detectors within a radius of 30 metres (98 ft) from the find spot. [11] Peter Whatling's missing hammer was also recovered and donated to the British Museum. [12] [13]

The hoard was concentrated in a single location, within the completely decayed remains of a wooden chest. [8] The objects had been grouped within the chest for example, pieces such as ladles and bowls were stacked inside one another, and other items were grouped in a way consistent with being held within an inner box. [14] Some items had been disturbed by burrowing animals and ploughing, but the overall amount of disturbance was low. [15] It was possible to determine the original layout of the artefacts within the container, and the existence of the container itself, due to Lawes' prompt notification of the find, which allowed it to be excavated in situ by professional archaeologists. [9]

The excavated hoard was taken to the British Museum. The discovery was leaked to the press, and the Sun newspaper ran a front-page story on 19 November, alongside a picture of Lawes with his metal detector. The full contents of the hoard and its value were still unknown, yet the newspaper article claimed that it was worth £10 million. [8] In response to the unexpected publicity, the British Museum held a press conference at the museum on 20 November to announce the discovery. Newspapers lost interest in the hoard quickly, allowing British Museum curators to sort, clean, and stabilise it without further disruption from the press. [8] The initial cleaning and basic conservation was completed within a month of its discovery. [10]

Inquest and valuation Edit

A Coroner's inquest was held at Lowestoft on 3 September 1993, and the hoard was declared a treasure trove, meaning that it was deemed to have been hidden with the intention of being recovered at a later date. Under English common law, anything declared as such belongs to the Crown if no one claims title to it. [17] However, the customary practice at the time was to reward anyone who found and promptly reported a treasure trove with money equivalent to its market value, the money being provided by the national institution that wished to acquire the treasure. In November 1993, the Treasure Trove Reviewing Committee valued the hoard at £1.75 million (about £3.59 million in 2019), which was paid to Lawes as finder of the treasure, and he shared it with farmer Peter Whatling. [18] Three years later, the Treasure Act 1996 was enacted by Parliament which allowed the finder, tenant, and landowner to share in any reward. [19]

Subsequent archaeological investigations Edit

The Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service surveyed the field in September 1993, after it was ploughed, finding four gold coins and 81 silver coins, all considered part of the same hoard. [20] Both earlier Iron Age and later mediaeval materials were also discovered, but there was no evidence of a Roman settlement in the vicinity. [11]

A follow-up excavation of the field was carried out by the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service in 1994, in response to illegal metal detecting near the hoard find. The hoard burial hole was re-excavated, and a single post hole was identified at the southwest corner this may have been the location of a marker post to enable the depositors of the cache to locate and recover it in the future. [11] Soil was removed in 10 cm (3.9 in) spits for analysis in the area 1,000 square metres (11,000 sq ft) around the find spot, and metal detectors were used to locate metal artefacts. This excavation recovered 335 items dating to the Roman period, mostly coins but also some box fittings. A series of late Bronze Age or early Iron Age post holes were found which may have formed a structure. However, no structural features of the Roman period were detected. [11] [21]

The coins discovered during the 1994 investigation were spread out in an ellipse centred on the hoard find spot, running east–west up to a distance of 20 metres (66 ft) on either side. [22] This distribution can be explained by the fact that the farmer carried out deep ploughing in 1990 in an east–west direction on the part of the field where the hoard was found. The farmer had ploughed in a north–south direction since 1967 or 1968, when the land was cleared for agricultural use, but the absence of coins north and south of the find spot suggests that the ploughing before 1990 had not disturbed the hoard. [22]

The hoard is mainly made up of gold and silver coins and jewellery, amounting to a total of 3.5 kilograms (7.7 lb) of gold and 23.75 kilograms (52.4 lb) of silver. [23] It had been placed in a wooden chest, made mostly or entirely of oak, that measured approximately 60×45×30 cm (23.6×17.7×11.8 in). Within the chest, some objects had evidently been placed in smaller boxes made of yew and cherry wood, while others had been packed in with woollen cloth or hay. The chest and the inner boxes had decayed almost completely after being buried, but fragments of the chest and its fittings were recovered during the excavation. [24] The main objects found are:

  • 569 gold coins (solidi) [4]
  • 14,272 silver coins, comprising 60 miliarenses and 14,212 siliquae[4]
  • 24 bronze coins (nummi) [4]
  • 29 items of jewellery in gold [25]
  • 98 silver spoons and ladles [26]
  • A silver tigress, made as a handle for a vessel [26]
  • 4 silver bowls and a small dish [27]
  • 1 silver beaker
  • 1 silver vase or juglet
  • 4 pepper pots, including the "Empress" Pepper Pot[3]
  • Toiletry items such as toothpicks
  • 2 silver locks from the decayed remains of wooden or leather caskets
  • Traces of various organic materials, including a small ivory pyxis

Coins Edit

The Hoxne Hoard contains 569 gold solidi, struck between the reigns of Valentinian I (364–75) and Honorius (393–423) 14,272 silver coins, including 60 miliarenses and 14,212 siliquae, struck between the reigns of Constantine II (337–40) and Honorius and 24 bronze nummi. [4] It is the most significant coin find from the end of Roman Britain and contains all major denominations of coinage from that time, as well as many examples of clipped silver coinage typical of late Roman Britain. The only find from Roman Britain with a larger number of gold coins was the Eye Hoard found in 1780 or 1781, for which there are poor records. [29] The largest single Romano-British hoard was the Cunetio Hoard of 54,951 third-century coins, but these were debased radiates with little precious-metal content. The Frome Hoard was unearthed in Somerset in April 2010 containing 52,503 coins minted between 253 and 305, also mostly debased silver or bronze. [30] Larger hoards of Roman coins have been found at Misrata, Libya [31] and reputedly also at Evreux, France (100,000 coins) and Komin, Croatia (300,000 coins). [32]

The gold solidi are all close to their theoretical weight of 4.48 g ( 1 ⁄ 72 of a Roman pound). The fineness of a solidus in this period was 99% gold. The total weight of the solidi in the hoard is almost exactly 8 Roman pounds, suggesting that the coins had been measured out by weight rather than number. [33] Analysis of the siliquae suggests a range of fineness of between 95% and 99% silver, with the highest percentage of silver found just after a reform of the coinage in 368. [34] Of the siliquae, 428 are locally produced imitations, generally of high quality and with as much silver as the official siliquae of the period. However, a handful are cliché forgeries where a core of base metal has been wrapped in silver foil. [35]

Historical spread and minting Edit

Coins are the only items in the Hoxne Hoard for which a definite date and place of manufacture can be established. All of the gold coins, and many of the silver coins, bear the names and portraits of the emperor in whose reign they were minted. Most also retain the original mint marks that identify where they were minted, illustrating the Roman system of regional mints producing coins to a uniform design. The coins' manufacture has been traced back to a total of 14 sources: Trier, Arles and Lyon (in Gaul), Ravenna, Milan, Aquileia, Rome (in modern Italy) Siscia (modern Croatia), Sirmium (modern Serbia), Thessaloniki (Greece), Constantinople, Cyzicus, Nicomedia, and Antioch (modern Turkey). [37]

The coins were minted under three dynasties of Roman emperors. The earliest are the successors of the Constantinian dynasty, followed by the Valentinianic emperors, and finally the Theodosian emperors. The collegiate system of rule (or Consortium imperii) meant that imperial partners would mint coins in each other's names at the mints under their jurisdiction. The overlapping reigns of Eastern and Western emperors often allow changes of type to be dated to within part of a reign. So the latest coins in the hoard, of Western ruler Honorius (393–423) and his challenger Constantine III (407–11), can be demonstrated to belong to the earlier parts of their reigns as they correspond to the lifetime of the Eastern Emperor Arcadius, who died in 408. [38] Thus, the coins provide a terminus post quem or earliest possible date for the deposition of the hoard of 408. [39]

The siliquae in the Hoard were struck mainly at Western mints in Gaul and Italy. It is unknown whether this is because coins from further East rarely reached Britain through trade, or because the Eastern mints rarely struck siliquae. [40] The production of coins seems to follow the location of the Imperial court at the time for instance, the concentration of Trier coins is much greater after 367, perhaps associated with Gratian moving his court to Trier. [40]

Table of mints and periods of gold solidi in the Hoxne Hoard [41]
Mint 364–7 367–75 375–8 378–88 388–95 394–402 402–8 Total
Aquileia 2 2
Constantinople 4 1 5
Lyons 5 5
Milan 15 6 367 388
Ravenna 54 54
Rome 1 38 39
Sirmium 8 8
Thessaloniki 1 1
Trier 6 6 8 58 78
Total 1 6 6 27 78 368 94 580

Clipping of the silver coins Edit

Almost every silver siliqua in the hoard had its edge clipped to some degree. This is typical of Roman silver coin finds of this period in Britain, although clipped coins are very unusual through the rest of the Roman Empire. [42] The clipping process invariably leaves the imperial portrait intact on the front of the coin but often damages the mint mark, inscription, and image on the reverse. [42]

The possible reasons for clipping coins are controversial. Possible explanations include fraud, a deliberate attempt to maintain a stable ratio between gold and silver coins, or an official attempt to provide a new source of silver bullion while maintaining the same number of coins in circulation. [42]

The huge number of clipped coins in the Hoxne Hoard has made it possible for archaeologists to observe the process of coin-clipping in detail. The coins were evidently cut face-up to avoid damaging the portrait. The average level of clipping is roughly the same for coins dating from 350 onwards. [43]

An unclipped siliqua

Partially clipped siliqua

A heavily clipped siliqua

Gold jewellery Edit

All the jewellery in the hoard is gold, and all gold items in the hoard are jewellery, other than the coins. None of the jewellery is unequivocally masculine, although several pieces might have been worn by either sex, such as the rings. [45] There are one body chain, six necklaces, three rings, and nineteen bracelets. The total weight of the gold jewellery is about 1 kilogram (2.2 lb), [46] and the average metal content of the jewellery pieces is 91.5% gold (about 22 carat), with small proportions of silver and copper in the metal. [47]

The most important gold item in the hoard is the body chain, which consists of four finely looped gold chains, made using the "loop-in-loop" method called "fox tail" in modern jewellery, and attached at front and back to plaques. [48] At the front, the chains have terminals in the shape of lions' heads and the plaque has jewels mounted in gold cells, with a large amethyst surrounded by four smaller garnets alternating with four empty cells which probably held pearls that have decayed. At the back, the chains meet at a mount centred on a gold solidus of Gratian (r. 375–383) which has been converted from an earlier use, probably as a pendant, and which may have been a family heirloom. [48] Body chains of this type appear in Roman art, sometimes on the goddess Venus or on nymphs some examples have erotic contexts, but they are also worn by respectable high-ranking ladies. They may have been regarded as a suitable gift for a bride. [49] The Hoxne body chain, worn tightly, would fit a woman with a bust-size of 76–81 cm (30–32 in). [50] Few body chains have survived one of the most complete is from the early Byzantine era, found in Egypt, and it also is in the British Museum. [51]

One of the necklaces features lion-headed terminals, and another includes stylised dolphins. The other four are relatively plain loop-in-loop chains, although one has a Chi-Rho symbol () on the clasp, the only Christian element in the jewellery. [53] Necklaces of similar lengths would normally be worn in the Roman period with a pendant, but no pendants were found in the hoard. [54] The three rings were originally set with gems, which might have been natural gemstones or pieces of coloured glass however, these were taken from the rings before they were buried, perhaps for re-use. The rings are of similar design, one with an oval bezel, one with a circular bezel, and one with a large oblong bezel. [55] There were 19 bracelets buried in the hoard, including three matching sets of four made of gold. Many similar bracelets have survived, but sets of four are most unusual they may have been worn two on each arm, or possibly were shared by two related women. [56] One set has been decorated by corrugating the gold with lateral and transverse grooves the other two sets bear pierced-work geometric designs. Another five bracelets bear hunting scenes, common in Late Roman decorative art. Three have the designs executed in pierced-work, whereas two others are in repoussé. One bracelet is the sole gold item in the hoard to carry an inscription it reads: "VTERE FELIX DOMINA IVLIANE" in Latin, meaning "Use [this] happily, Lady Juliane". [56] The expression utere felix (or sometimes uti felix) is the second most common inscriptional formula on items from Roman Britain and is used to wish good luck, well-being, and joy. [57] The formula is not specifically Christian, but it sometimes occurs in an explicitly Christian context, for example, together with a Chi-Rho symbol. [57]

The jewellery may have represented the "reserve" items rarely or never used from the collection of a wealthy woman or family. Some of the most common types of jewellery are absent, such as brooches, pendants, and earrings. Items set with gems are notably missing, although they were very much in the taste of the day. Catherine Johns, former Senior Curator for Roman Britain at the British Museum, speculates that the current or favourite jewellery of the owner was not included in the hoard. [58]

Silver items Edit

The hoard contains about 100 silver and silver-gilt items the number is imprecise because there are unmatched broken parts. They include a statuette of a leaping tigress, made as a handle for an object such as a jug or lamp four pepper-pots (piperatoria) a beaker a vase or juglet (a small jug) four bowls a small dish and 98 silver spoons and ladles. The beaker and juglet are decorated with similar leaf and stem patterns, and the juglet has three gilded bands. In contrast, the small bowls and dish are plain, and it is presumed that the owners of the Hoard had many more such items, probably including the large decorated dishes found in other hoards. [16] Many pieces are gilded in parts to accentuate the decoration. The technique of fire-gilding with mercury was used, [59] as was typical at the time. [60]

Piperatoria Edit

The pepper-pots include one vessel, finely modelled after a wealthy or imperial lady, which soon became known as the "Empress" pepper-pot. [note 1] The woman's hair, jewellery, and clothing are carefully represented, and gilding is used to emphasise many details. She is holding a scroll in her left hand, giving the impression of education as well as wealth. Other pepper-pots in the hoard are modelled into a statue of Hercules and Antaeus, an ibex, and a hare and hound together. Not all such spice dispensers held pepper — they were used to dispense other spices as well — but are grouped in discussions as pepper-pots. Each of those found in this hoard has a mechanism in the base to rotate an internal disc, which controls the aperture of two holes in the base. When fully open, the containers could have been filled using a funnel when part-open they could have been shaken over food or drink to add the spices.

Piperatorium is generally translated as pepper-pot, and black pepper is considered the most likely condiment these were used for. Pepper is only one of a number of expensive, high-status spices which these vessels might have dispensed, however. The piperatoria are rare examples of this type of Roman silverware, and according to Johns the Hoxne finds have "significantly expanded the date range, the typology and the iconographic scope of the type". [63] The trade and use of pepper in this period has been supported with evidence of mineralized black pepper at three Northern Province sites recovered in the 1990s, [note 2] [65] and from the Vindolanda tablets which record the purchase of an unspecified quantity of pepper for two denarii. [66] Archaeological sites with contemporary finds have revealed spices, including coriander, poppy, celery, dill, summer savory, mustard, and fennel. [65] [note 3]

They just couldn't get enough of it, wars were fought over it. And if you look at Roman recipes, every one starts with: 'Take pepper and mix with . ' (Christine McFadden, food writer)

When the Romans came to Britain they brought a lot of material culture and a lot of habits with them that made the people of Britain feel Roman they identified with the Roman culture. Wine was one of these – olive oil was another – and pepper would have been a more valuable one in this same sort of 'set' of Romanitas. (Roberta Tomber, British Museum Visiting Fellow)

So regularly filling a large silver pepper pot like ours would have taken its toll on the grocery bills. And the household that owned our pepper pot had another three silver pots, for pepper or other spice – one shaped as Hercules in action, and two in the shape of animals. This is dizzying extravagance, the stuff of bankers' bonuses. But the pepper pots are just a tiny part of the great hoard of buried treasure. (Neil MacGregor, British Museum Director)

Other silver pieces Edit

The tigress is a solid-cast statuette weighing 480 grams (17 oz) and measuring 15.9 cm (6.3 in) from head to tail. She was designed to be soldered onto some other object as its handle traces of tin were found beneath her rear paws, which have a "smoothly concave curve". [72] She looks most aesthetically pleasing when the serpentine curves of her head, back, rump, and tail form a line at an angle of about 45°, when the rear paws are flat, allowing for their curve. [73] Her gender is obvious as there are six engorged teats under her belly. She is carefully decorated on her back, but her underside is "quite perfunctorily finished". [74] Her stripes are represented by two engraved lines, with a black niello inlay between them, in most places not meeting the engraved lines. Neither her elongated body, nor the distribution of the stripes are accurate for the species she has a long dorsal stripe running from the skull along the spine to the start of the tail, which is typical of tabby cats rather than tigers. The figure has no stripes around her tail, which thickens at the end, suggesting a thick fur tip as in a lion's tail, which tigers do not have, although Roman art usually gives them one. [74]

The large collection of spoons includes 51 cochlearia, which are small spoons with shallow bowls and long, tapering handles with a pointed end which was used to pierce eggs and spear small pieces of food—as the Romans did not use forks at the table. [75] There are 23 cigni, which are much rarer, having large rather shallow spoons with shorter, bird-headed handles and about 20 deep round spoons or small ladles and strainer-spoons. Many are decorated with abstract motifs and some with dolphins or fanciful marine creatures. Many of the spoons are decorated with a Christian monogram cross or Chi-Rho symbol, and sometimes, also with the Greek letters alpha and omega (an appellation for Jesus, who is described as the alpha and omega in the Book of Revelation). Three sets of ten spoons, and several other spoons, are decorated with such Christian symbols. As is often the case with Roman silver spoons, many also have a Latin inscription on them, either simply naming their owner or wishing their owner long life. In total, eight different people are named seven on the spoons, and one on the single beaker in the hoard: Aurelius Ursicinus, Datianus, Euherius, Faustinus, Peregrinus, Quintus, Sanctus, and Silvicola. The most common name is "Aurelius Ursicinus", which occurs on a set of five cochlearia and five ladles. [76] It is unknown whether any of the people named in these inscriptions would have been involved in hiding the hoard or were even alive at the time it was buried.

Although only one of these inscriptions is explicitly Christian (vivas in deo), [77] inscriptions on silver spoons comprising a name followed by vivas or vivat usually can be identified as Christian in other late Roman hoards for example the Mildenhall Treasure has five spoons, three with Chi-Rho monograms, and two with vivas inscriptions (PASCENTIA VIVAS and PAPITTEDO VIVAS). [78] The formula vir bone vivas also occurs on a spoon from the Thetford Hoard, but whereas the Thetford Hoard spoons have mostly pagan inscriptions (e.g. Dei Fau[ni] Medugeni "of the god Faunus Medugenus [the Mead begotten]"), [79] the Hoxne Hoard does not have any inscriptions of a specifically pagan nature, and the hoard may be considered to have come from a Christian household (or households). It often is assumed that Roman spoons with Chi-Rho monograms or the vivas in deo formula are either christening spoons (perhaps presented at adult baptism) or were used in the Eucharist ceremony, but that is not certain. [80]

Table of inscriptions on silver tableware [note 5]
Reference number Inscription Transcription Translation Notes
1994,0408.31 EVHERIVIVAS Euheri vivas "Euherius, may you live" Beaker. The name may also have been Eucherius or Eutherius.
1994,0408.81–83 AVRVRSICINI Aur[elius] Ursicini "(property of) Aurelius Ursicinus" Three spoons (ligula or cignus)
1994,0408.84–85 AVRVRSICINVS Aur[elius] Ursicinus "Aurelius Ursicinus" Two spoons (ligula or cignus)
1994,0408.86–88 AVRVRSICINI Aur[elius] Ursicini "(property of) Aurelius Ursicinus" Three spoons (cochlearia)
1994,0408.89–90 AVRVRSICINI Aur[elius] Ursicini "(property of) Aurelius Ursicinus" Two spoons (cochlearia), also inscribed with the Chi-Rho monogram and alpha and omega
1994,0408.101–102 PEREGRINVS VIVAT Peregrinus vivat "Peregrinus, may he live" Two spoons (ligula or cignus)
1994,0408.103–105 QVISSVNTVIVAT Quintus vivat "Quintus, may he live" Three spoons (ligula or cignus). Inscription is an error for QVINTVSVIVAT
1994,0408.106 PEREGRINI Peregrini "(property of) Peregrinus" Spoon (cochlearium)
1994,0408.107–110 SILVICOLAVIVAS Silvicola vivas "Silvicola, may you live" Set of four cochlearia
1994,0408.115 PER PR Per[egrinus] Pr[imus] ? "Peregrinus Primus" Scratched graffiti on a spoon (ligula or cignus)
1994,0408.116 FAVSTINEVIVAS Faustine vivas "Faustinus, may you live" Spoon (ligula or cignus)
1994,0408.117 VIRBONEVIVAS Vir bone vivas "Good man, may you live" Spoon (ligula or cignus)
1994,0408.122 [V]IVASINDEO Vivas in deo "May you live in god" Spoon (cochlearium)
1994,0408.129 SANC Sanc[tus] "Sanctus" Spoon (cochlearium)
1994,0408.133 DATIANIAEVIVAS Datiane vivas "Datianus, may you live" Spoon (cochlearium). Inscription is an error for DATIANEVIVAS
Table of monograms and symbols on tableware with no text
Reference number Monogram or symbol Notes
1994,0408.52–61 Chi-rho monogram Ladle
1994,0408.91–100 Monogram cross Spoon
1994,0408.118–119 Chi-Rho, alpha and omega Spoon (ligula or cignus)
1994,0408.135 Chi-rho monogram Spoon

There are also a number of small items of uncertain function, described as toiletry pieces. Some are picks, others perhaps scrapers, and three have empty sockets at one end, which probably contained organic material such as bristle, to make a brush. The size of these would be appropriate for cleaning the teeth or applying cosmetics, among other possibilities. [81]

The average purity of the silver items is 96%. The remainder of the metal is made up of copper and a small amount of zinc, with trace amounts of lead, gold, and bismuth present. The zinc is likely to have been present in a copper brass used to alloy the silver when the objects were made, and the lead, gold, and bismuth probably were present in the unrefined silver ore. [82]

Iron and organic materials Edit

The iron objects found in the hoard are probably the remains of the outer wooden chest. These consist of large iron rings, double-spiked loops and hinges, strap hinges, probable components of locks, angle brackets, wide and narrow iron strips, and nails. [83]

Organic finds are rarely well documented with hoards because most coin and treasure finds are removed hastily by the finder or have previously been disrupted by farm work rather than excavated. The Hoxne organic finds included bone, wood, other plant material, and leather. Small fragments were found from a decorated ivory pyxis (a cylindrical lidded box), along with more than 150 tiny shaped pieces of bone inlay or veneer, probably from a wooden box or boxes that have decayed. Minuscule fragments of wood adhering to metal objects were identified as belonging to nine species of timber, all native to Britain wood traces associated with the iron fittings of the outer chest established that it was made of oak. Silver locks and hinges were from two small wooden boxes or caskets, one made of decorative cherry wood and one made of yew. [84] Some wheat straw survived from padding between the plain silver bowls, which also bore faint traces of linen cloth. [85] Leather fragments were too degraded for identification.

The initial metallurgical analysis of the hoard was carried out in late 1992 and early 1993 by Cowell and Hook for the procedural purposes of the coroner's inquest. This analysis used X-ray fluorescence, a technique that was applied again later to cleaned surfaces on specimens.

All 29 items of gold jewellery were analysed, with silver and copper found to be present. Results were typical for Roman silver in hoards of the period, in terms of the presence of copper alloyed with the silver to harden it, and trace elements. One repaired bowl showed a mercury-based solder. [59]

The large armlet of pierced gold (opus interrasile) showed traces of hematite on the reverse side, which probably would have been used as a type of jeweller's rouge. [86] This is the earliest known and documented use of this technique on Roman jewellery. [87] Gilt items showed the presence of mercury, indicating the mercury gilding technique. [59] The black inlay on the cast silver tigress shows the niello technique, but with silver sulphide rather than lead sulphide. [87] The settings of stones where garnet and amethyst remain, in the body chain, have vacant places presumed to be where pearls were set, and show elemental sulphur as adhesive or filler. [87]

The Hoxne Hoard was buried during a period of great upheaval in Britain, marked by the collapse of Roman authority in the province, the departure of the majority of the Roman army, and the first of a wave of attacks by the Anglo-Saxons. [88] Attacks on Italy by the Visigoths around the turn of the fifth century caused the general Stilicho to recall Roman army units from Rhaetia, Gaul, and Britannia. [89] While Stilicho held off the Visigoth attack, the Western provinces were left defenceless against Suebi, Alans, and Vandals who crossed the frozen Rhine in 406 and overran Gaul. The remaining Roman troops in Britain, fearing that the invaders would cross the Channel, elected a series of emperors of their own to lead the defence.

The first two such emperors were put to death by the dissatisfied soldiery in a matter of months, but the third, who would declare himself Constantine III, led a British force across the English Channel to Gaul in his bid to become Roman Emperor. After scoring victories against the "barbarians" in Gaul, Constantine was defeated by an army loyal to Honorius and beheaded in 411. [90] Meanwhile, Constantine's departure had left Britain vulnerable to attacks from Saxon and Irish raiders. [91]

After 410, Roman histories give little information about events in Britain. [92] Writing in the next decade, Saint Jerome described Britain after 410 as a "province fertile of tyrants", [93] suggesting the collapse of central authority and the rise of local leaders in response to repeated raids by Saxons and others. By 452, a Gaulish chronicler was able to state that some ten years previously "the Britons, which to this time had suffered from various disasters and misfortunes, are reduced by the power of the Saxons". [94]

Burial Edit

Exactly who owned the Hoxne Hoard, and their reasons for burying it, are not known, and probably never will be. However, the hoard itself and its context provide some important clues. The hoard evidently was buried carefully, some distance from any buildings. [95] The hoard very likely represents only a portion of the precious-metal wealth of the person, or people, who owned it many common types of jewellery are missing, as are large tableware items such as those found in the Mildenhall Treasure. It is unlikely that anyone would have possessed the rich gold and silver items found in the Hoxne Hoard without owning items in those other categories. Whoever owned the hoard also would have had wealth in the form of land, livestock, buildings, furniture, and clothing. At most, the Hoxne Hoard represents a moderate portion of the wealth of someone rich conversely, it may represent a minuscule fraction of the wealth of a family that was incredibly wealthy. [96]

The appearance of the names "Aurelius Ursicinus" and "Juliane" on items in the Hoxne Hoard need not imply that people by those names owned the rest of the hoard, either at the time of its burial or previously. [97] [98] There are no historical references to an "Aurelius Ursicinus" in Britain in this period. While a "Marcus Aurelius Ursicinus" is recorded in the Praetorian Guard in Rome in the period 222–235, [99] a soldier or official of the late fourth or early fifth century would be more likely to take the imperial nomen Flavius, rather than Aurelius. This leads Tomlin to speculate "The name "Aurelius Ursicinus" might sound old-fashioned it would certainly have been more appropriate to a provincial landowner than an army officer or government official". [99]

There are a number of theories about why the hoard was buried. One is that the hoard represented a deliberate attempt to keep wealth safe, perhaps in response to one of the many upheavals facing Roman Britain in the early fifth century. This is not the only hypothesis, however. [100] Archaeologist Peter Guest argues that the hoard was buried because the items in it were used as part of a system of gift-exchange, and as Britain separated from the Roman Empire, they were no longer required. [101] A third hypothesis is that the Hoxne Hoard represents the proceeds of a robbery, buried to avoid detection. [97]

Late Roman hoards Edit

The Hoxne Hoard comes from the later part of a century (c. 350–450) from which an unusually large number of hoards have been discovered, mostly from the fringes of the Empire. [103] Such hoards vary in character, but many include the large pieces of silver tableware lacking in the Hoxne Hoard: dishes, jugs and ewers, bowls and cups, some plain, but many highly decorated. [103] Two other major hoards discovered in modern East Anglia in the last century are from the fourth century both are now in the British Museum. The Mildenhall Treasure from Suffolk consists of thirty items of silver tableware deposited in the late fourth century, many large and elaborately decorated, such as the "Great Dish". [104] The Water Newton Treasure from Cambridgeshire is smaller, but is the earliest hoard to have a clearly Christian character, apparently belonging to a church or chapel [105] the assorted collection probably includes items made in Britain. [106] The Kaiseraugst Treasure from the site at Augusta Raurica in modern Switzerland (now in Basel) contained 257 items, including a banqueting service with sophisticated decoration. [107] The Esquiline Treasure, found in Rome, evidently came from a wealthy Roman family of the late fourth century, and includes several large items, including the "Casket of Projecta". [108] Most of the Esquiline Treasure is in the British Museum, as are bowls and dishes from the Carthage Treasure which belonged to a known family in Roman Africa around 400. [109]

The Mildenhall, Kaiseraugst, and Esquiline treasures comprise large items of tableware. Other hoards, however, such as those found at Thetford and Beaurains consist mostly of coins, jewellery, and small tableware items these two hoards probably are pagan votive offerings. [110] A hoard from Traprain Law in Scotland contains decorated Roman silver pieces cut up and folded, showing regard for the value of their metal alone, and may represent loot from a raid. [111]

Local context Edit

Hoxne, where the hoard was discovered, is located in Suffolk in modern-day East Anglia. Although no large, aristocratic villa has been located in the Hoxne area, there was a Roman settlement nearby from the first through fourth centuries at Scole, about 3.2 km (2.0 mi) north–west of Hoxne, at the intersection of two Roman roads. One of these, Pye Road, (today's A140), linked Venta Icenorum (Caistor St Edmund) to Camulodunum (Colchester) and Londinium (London). [11] [112] [113]

The History Blog

A hoard of 293 silver denarii in excellent condition has been unearthed near Pratteln in northwestern Switzerland. There is no surviving container, but the coins were all found in a small hole together, so they had to have been buried in one event. The coins date from the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D., mostly the latter. The oldest denarius in the hoard was minted under the reign of the Emperor Nero, the youngest in Rome under Commodus in 181/182 A.D. The dates of the most recent coins suggest the hoard was cached at the end of the second century.

The total value of the coins at that time would have been significant. Almost 300 silver denarii is the equivalent of half the annual salary of a legionary. It is the second largest assemblage of pure Roman silver ever found in Switzerland, after the treasure of Augusta Raurica (Kaiseraugst) which, while far richer in total weight (58 kilos vs. one kilo) and status pieces (tableware, candelabra, silver bars), its complement of coins was a mere 187. Hoards of thousands of Roman coins have been found, but they are a hundred years younger than the Pratteln coins and the currency was so debased their silver content was practically nil. The denarii of the 1st and 2nd century were 100% silver. The ones of the third century were less than 3% silver.

The hoard of silver denarii was discovered by Archäologie Baselland volunteer Sacha Schneider while on a metal detecting investigation of the slopes of Mount Adlerberg. It was in a wooded area with no conspicuous features that you might expect to mark the spot of buried treasure, but perhaps there was something notable there in the second century A.D. when the hoard was hidden. Archaeologists would never have found it on their own. They’re primarily engaged in salvage excavations in advance of construction or in exploring known sites, so for the past decade they have enlisted volunteers like Schneider to explore the wider landscape and report anything they find. She alerted archaeologists in the Canton capital of Liestal and they excavated the hoard.

Today a suburb of Basel, the whole village of Pratteln is on the Federal Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites and is one of the earliest known areas in the country to have been settled. The oldest artifact ever discovered in Switzerland, a 100,000-year-old hand axe, was found there in 1974. While the village as it is today was built around a monastery and castle in the 11th or 12th century, archaeological remains from the Neolithic, Celtic Iron Age and Roman Empire are evidence of that the area was occupied for millennia.

One of Pratteln’s Roman villas, the rural estate of Kästeli, was one of the largest country homes in the vicinity of Augusta Raurica. The Church of Saint Leodegar at the epicenter of Pratteln’s old town was built in the 13th century over the remains of a Roman villa. That villa would have had a clear view of the Adlerberg slope were the treasure was buried.

Layout of the settlement

During excavations it was determined that the city was founded on a high plateau just south of the Rhine river. Two small rivers, the Ergolz and Violen, have carved a triangle in the plateau, the base of which is about 1 kilometer wide along the base of the Jura, and the apex points northward toward the Rhine, about 1 kilometer from the base. This point is the site of the Roman castrum, or military fortification. The city is therefore well defended by steep slopes to the north, east, and west.

The next step in planning the city was the surveying of the area according to the architect's plans for the city. Every important public building had its specific place, starting with the temple of Jupiter as the sacred high point from which the street network would spread. The architect, who was responsible for executing the plans for the city, next laid a longitudinal axis across the triangle 36˚ west of north to form the main street of the settlement. Other longitudinal streets were laid out parallel to the main street at intervals of 55 meters. The main street was then divided into sections of 66 meters (255 Roman feet), which formed the corners of 10 crossing streets. This created a series of rectangular blocks of around 50 by 60 meters. The streets were laid on a solid bed of gravel and flanked by gutters on both sides. The more important roads featured covered sidewalks behind rows of columns.

There is a museum for everyone in Basel

Exhibitions, Museum Night and journeys through time

Museum Night is held once a year in Basel: almost 40 museums open up their doors outside the usual opening hours and invite visitors to marvel at some 200 offers – a highlight not to be missed.

But apart from Museum Night, Basel offers museums to suit every taste: art lovers, technology enthusiasts, scientists, historians, children – there is something for everyone. And with the BaselCard, you save 50% on the admission prices – feel free to ask us about it.

Anatomical Museum in Basel

The Anatomical Museum is part of the University of Basel Faculty of Medicine. In the permanent exhibitions of historical and original preparations, visitors can take a look at genuine specimens of parts of the human body. The prenatal development of the human body is also presented in a clear and understandable style. The brave at heart can admire an original 16th-century skeleton. There are special workshops available for the little ones, making Basel's Anatomical Museum a great place to visit with children.

Not just for children: Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel (toy museum)

The Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel boasts more than 6,000 exhibits: dolls and dolls' houses, play shops and some 2,500 teddy bears – the largest teddy bear collection in the world. It's not just children who will enjoy this museum adults will feel young at heart again here too. Guided tours and interactive points bring the exhibits to life, and you can of course purchase souvenirs to take home with you from the museum shop.

Kunstmuseum Basel (art museum)

Old masters meet contemporary art in this Basel museum dedicated to art. The city can pride itself on having collected some of the most important works in the history of art: Picasso and van Gogh are represented here, along with Holbein, Rousseau and Klee. An array of lectures, workshops, performances and even concerts guarantee that the children won't get bored either. Incidentally, Kunstmuseum Basel has been in existence since the 17th century, making it one of the most important places of interest in Basel.

Antikenmuseum Basel and Sammlung Ludwig (Museum of Antiquities and Ludwig Collection)

If you love journeys through history, you definitely shouldn't miss out on the Antikenmuseum on your way around Basel's museums. The only museum in Switzerland dedicated to ancient Mediterranean art and culture, the Antikenmuseum in Basel presents Roman and Greek, Egyptian, Italian and Etruscan art – and in such a way that children can enjoy it too. Changing exhibitions and workshops bring the ancient world to life, while the museum shop sells gladiator swords and Roman jewellery.

Augusta Raurica

For lovers of the ancient world who still haven't had enough after the exhibitions in Basel's museums, a trip to Augst is recommended. There you can find the well-preserved Roman settlement of Augusta Raurica and marvel at a genuine Roman theatre, the Roman villa and the largest hoard of silver from ancient times. The theatre seats around 2,000 spectators and hosts a variety of events. A large Roman festival is held each year in August. Augst is easily accessible from Basel by public transport – which is free of charge with the BaselCard.

World culture in Basel: Museum der Kulturen

The whole world comes together in the border city of Basel: the Museum der Kulturen boasts a collection of more than 300,000 items that offer visitors a new perspective on the world and their ethnology. This change in perspective poses social questions which three permanent exhibitions attempt to answer. All of which makes visiting this museum a fascinating journey through different cultures.

Art from Basel: Museum Tinguely

Swiss artist Jean Tinguely came from Basel. The museum, which is dedicated to his art, brings his love of machines to life: wire sculptures and kinetic reliefs whisk visitors away to the world of mechanisms. More than four decades of Tinguely's art is exhibited here – kinetic artworks that are strangely lifelike.

Pharmacy Museum of the University of Basel

Another museum in Basel to be inspired by the medical world is the Pharmacy Museum. It began with a private collection by the pharmacist Josef Häfliger who lived in the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. He gave his collection relating to pharmaceutics and the history of pharmaceutics to the university so interested visitors can still find out all about the production of remedies in this Basel museum today.

Also worth a family outing: the Cartoon Museum

The Cartoon Museum is a rather unusual museum in Basel which delights adults and children alike. It has more than 10,000 exhibits: comics and cartoons, parodies and caricatures, works with and without text. The focus is on humour and entertainment as well as on social criticism – and Mickey Mouse is featured too, of course, to make even the youngest visitors laugh.

Jewish Museum of Switzerland

The Jewish Museum of Switzerland in Basel was the first Jewish museum to be opened after the Second World War – in 1966. The museum tells the story of Jewish people in Switzerland, but also moves far beyond the Swiss border: the collection includes items from the German-speaking countries as well as from North Africa and Israel. Medieval tombstones and Hebrew books printed in Basel count among the particularly outstanding exhibits.

Hoosesagg Museum: Basel's smallest museum

Another quirky museum can be found tucked away in a tiny street around Nadelberg: the Hoosesagg Museum exhibits lovingly gathered collections of items such as bells, snow globes, Pokémon characters or strawberries – colourful, inspiring and unique. Ever-changing mini exhibitions mean the city's smallest museum is well worth a second or third visit. A very special insider's tip!

Augusta Raurica and an Immense Silver Hoard - History

Salt museum & the Swiss Saltworks

Salt, one of the oldest cultural possessions, is a common thread throughout the history of mankind. Find out in the 'Salzkammer' (salt chamber) how many areas of human culture salt has played a role.
In the 'Salzkammer' salt museum you will experience the wonderful world of salt in 15 rooms over 2 floors. Centuries-old slat blocks, historic salt containers, stories and anecdotes take us back to the origins of the 'white gold'. The exhibition takes you from the beginnings of salt extraction and the salt trade up to modern industrial processing. Above all, this is impressively achieved by looking into an exposed original bore hole.
The exhibition is located at Villa Glenck. The house, built in 1860 in the new Baroque style, stands on the site where salt was first extracted, right next to the Gasthof Solbad. For many years it was used as the residence for the directors of the saltworks.

Booking tours and further information

Billard & Bowling

Only a few minutes drive away is the 'Sprisse' billiards and bowling centre in the Proatteler industrial area.. A great entertaining way to start to your event together with an aperatif in a relaxed atmosphere.

The Sprisse crew will gladly provide you a quote for a great start to an unforgettable evening and will look forward to hearing from you.

Off into antiquity!

A mysterious well shaft. The greatest hoard of silver in late antiquity. The best maintained ancient theatre north of the Alps. Fascinating stories to experience and touch. Welcome to Augusta Raurica!

Augusta Raurica is the perfect destination for an excursion and is only a few minutes drive from the Gasthof Solbad. The option of travelling by boat from Augusta Raurica to the Solbad also provides a relaxing interlude to your eventful excursion with a culinary conclusion at Gasthof Solbad.

Augusta Raurica and an Immense Silver Hoard - History

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An area of 1100 m2 was archaeologically examined in 2015/16 in advance of a new construction proj. more An area of 1100 m2 was archaeologically examined in 2015/16 in advance of a new construction project at Kempraten (municipality of Rapperswil-Jona, Canton St.Gallen CH). As well as Roman lime kilns, the excavations also unexpectedly uncovered a mithraeum. The religious building as well as a rather large area around it were excavated in detail.

The site is located on the north-western edge of the vicus, a short distance from the presumed course of the road and right on the shoreline of Lake Zurich. After the lime kilns had become defunct, the mithraeum was built on a rocky terrace situated slightly above the lake level in a north-south alignment, with its sacred space to the north built against a steep rock face. At this point in the investigation three construction phases can be distinguished, of which the sacred building existed from the advanced stages of the 3rd century to at least the turn of the 5th century. Whilst the two first phases ended in a conflagration, it has not yet been possible to pinpoint the reasons why the site was eventually abandoned.

The excavation strategy and methods employed were developed in collaboration with various experts (archaeologists, numismatists, archaeobiologists, geoarchaeologists, geologists, epigraphists, art historians) specifically for the purpose of excavating the mithraeum. A rich assemblage of finds and samples were recovered from inside the building using a fine grid to allow for an analysis of both the vertical and horizontal stratigraphy. In addition, the findspots of special artefacts (coins, rock crystals, clay balls with incised numbers, boars’ tusks, altars and altar fragments, remnants of cult images etc.) were precisely pinpointed.

The lecture does outline the current state of research on one hand and the questions and trajectories we plan to investigate as part of the interdisciplinary analysis on the other. The main goal of the analysis will be to reconstruct as closely as possible the ritual practices and the design of the building using the finds and their distribution patterns in combination with the features. Geoarchaeological examinations of micromorphological samples are being undertaken with the aim of reconstructing the interior of the building and the processes that took place during phases of destruction and alteration. The archaeobiological remains will provide information on the food consumed during the ritual meals. It has already been shown that the specific composition of the range of animal bones – predominantly of poultry followed by young pigs – differed significantly from that of ordinary settlement waste. The cult followers will be investigated by studying the votive inscriptions on the altars, the remains of a cult image and the small finds. Particular attention will be paid to an assemblage of fittings deposited in the central aisle at the end of the second phase. This will answer questions regarding the processes that take place when objects lose their function, where and how they are deposited, what remains within the building and what is removed.

Watch the video: Augusta Raurica Römerfest 2017 (August 2022).