Hundreds of ancient gold coins were found last week in the basement of a former theater in northern Italy. Archaeologists uncovered the jackpot in Como, on the border with Switzerland.
The coins date back to the late Roman Imperial times in the fourth or fifth century and were spilling out of a two-handled soapstone jar called an amphora, buried in the dirt.
Whoever placed the jar in that place "buried it in such a way that in case of danger they could go and retrieve it," said Maria Grazia Facchinetti, an expert in rare coins, according to CNN. "They were stacked in rolls similar to those seen in the bank today."
At a news conference, she said the coins have engravings of the emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leon I, Antonio and Libio Severo, and "do not go beyond 474 AD."
"All of this makes us think that the owner is not a private subject, rather it could be a public bank or deposit," Facchinetti said.
The Times of London reports that Luca Rinaldi, the local archaeology superintendent, said the coins had an "inestimable" value. "We are talking about an exceptional discovery," he said.
Archaeologists were digging through the basement of the historic Cressoni Theater, which closed in 1997. The Ministry of Culture said the excavation was being carried out within the "restructuring" of the theater, and Newsweek reports the site was being turned into residential apartments.
According to CNN, archaeologists also unearthed a gold bar inside a jar on the same site. The theater is not far from the Novum Comum forum area, according to CNN, where several other Roman artifacts have been discovered.
"We do not yet know in detail the historical and cultural significance of the find," Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli said in a press release. "But that area is proving to be a real treasure for our archaeology."
Bonisoli said the coins are a "discovery that fills me with pride." They are among several important Roman artifacts discovered in recent years.
In 2016, archaeologists found a 2,000-year-old Roman gold coin in Jerusalem that featured the face of Nero, the Roman emperor. Ancient Roman coins have also been unearthed from the ruins of a castle in Japan.
According to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, the coins in Como were discovered last week and transferred to a restoration laboratory in Milan, where they will be examined further by archaeologists.