Hoard of 17th c. Lithuanian coins found in Poland

A hoard of 17th century Lithuanian coins has been discovered on the outskirts of Zaniówka, Poland. The initial find was made by Michał Łotys who, in a twist from the usual way these things go, was scanning a field with a metal detector looking for lost parts of mechanical agricultural equipment. Instead he found some loose coins and a ceramic jug tightly packed with more coins.

Unlicensed metal detecting for archaeological artifacts is against the law in Poland, so as soon as he realized what he’d found, Łotys alerted the Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments (WUOZ) in Lublin who dispatched archaeologists to the find site. The subsequent excavation recovered the jug hoard, fragments of the jug damaged by agricultural work and the loose coins. The inspection found that the hoard was deliberately buried in a layer of subsoil.

In total, there are about 1,000 crowns and Lithuanian crowns and schillings in the hoard, most of them compacted inside a siwak vase (a traditional Polish form of earthenware jug with a large handle and wide spout). The vase and contents weigh 3 kg (6.6 lbs). The damage to the jug separated 115 of the coins which were found loose at the site. Another 62 coins were found in clusters, compacted together by oxidation material. Several fragments of fabric were found inside the jug as well.

At the time the coins were minted, Poland and Lithuania were united in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a joint state that at its peak in the 17th century was one of the largest states in Europe with a multi-ethnic population of 12 million. The union began to fall apart in the second half of the 17th century, rent by internal religious conflict and devastated by war with Russia and the brutal Swedish invasion known as the Deluge. These are the kind of pressures that drive people in all eras to bury their portable wealth for security.

The hoard is now undergoing excavation, study and analysis at the Archaeology Department of the Museum of Southern Podlasie, in Biała Podlaska.