2000 medieval coins discovered in France

French archaeologists have identified more than 2,000 medieval coins from four different caches in the city of Guérande, about 330 miles southwest of Paris. Discovered between 2021 and 2022 during work on a real estate project, INRAP (Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives) conducted an excavation and has now posted their findings.

Archaeological research indicates the development of a medieval settlement from the 12th and 13th centuries. The first discovery in 2021 is the oldest treasure of the four, consisting of an isolated deposit dating back to the years 1180-1204, arranged in a container made of oak wood.

Linen envelope (diamond twill) found in deposit no. 4. Photo: © A. Cazin, Heritage Factory in Normandy

The coins were put into a small chest and then forgotten. Then a new building covered the space in the 14th century. The other three monetary deposits were found in the corner of one of the rooms of this 14th-century building. These treasures are deposited in ceramic pottery. Experts suggest that it is a multiple cache, meaning a single treasure distributed in three hiding places. It is estimated to have been hidden in the years 1341-1342.

The discovery also shows how people in the Middle Ages recycled old pots. One of the treasures was sealed by a lid made from the bottom of an inverted pot, broken at the belly level, and fitted on top of a jug broken at the neck level, reused as a container. Another treasure was also in pottery, but under the lid (damaged during the discovery) there was a textile wrapping the coins.


Having damaged the containers of the treasures during the excavations, archaeologists decided to keep the earth mound surrounding the last treasure and pass it through a scanner to see how the coins were arranged in the supposed pot.

Excavatiing part of the Guérande dig. Photo: © Aurélie Raffin, Inrap

Experts know that within a monetary deposit, coins are rarely deposited hazardly, and one of the main challenges is to understand how and in what form their distribution was planned. Therefore this is one of the first times a scanner has been used to obtain a three-dimensional image of a monetary deposit.

The use of the scanner in 2D and then 3D dimensions allows obtaining an image without damaging the original fragile content and disposition. This analysis revealed the presence of an extra layer between the fabric already enveloping the coins and the coins. The presence of which according to archaeologists could not have been detected otherwise.

General plan of the remains at the level of the area located to the south of the excavation, in front of the street with the location of the monetary deposits at the time of their discovery. Photo © Aurélie Raffin, Inrap

A mystery remains as to why the people of the 14th century chose to hide their treasure at the same spot as another treasure 150 years older which they were not aware of. Also, why the people who hid these pots never came to retrieve their treasure? The date corresponds to the Black Death in France, and the individuals perhaps died without ever revealing the hiding place of their treasure. It took 680 years for it to resurface.


Archaeologists have announced that they will continue examining the coins and textiles from the deposits. You can read more about the find from INRAP.

~ article by Lorris Chevalier