Prague is a city with a 1000-year old history. So no wonder that wherever you dig, you're bound to discover foundations of old houses or at least a broken pot. It's much rarer though that archaeologists find something more valuable - buried treasure, for example. But fortune smiled on a group of archaeologists last week when they discovered a clay jar chock-full of silver coins right in the centre of Prague.
Rescue excavations are underway in Stepanska Street, just off Prague's Wenceslas Square. One of the houses will be turned into a hotel and underground garages will be built in the courtyard. But before the heavy machinery arrives to dig the foundations, archaeologists have to sift through every cubic metre of ground to salvage whatever remnants of past settlements which would otherwise be buried for good under tonnes of concrete.
"Now we are approaching what's left of a 15th-century Gothic house. Under the floor of that house in a shallow hole we found a jar full of silver coins from the time of King George of Podebrady."
Karel Svoboda is the head of a team of excavators that are carrying out the research in the courtyard of what happens to be the house where Czech writer Jaroslav Hasek was born.
The lucky finder, Bretislav Jehlicka, is still overcome by the significance of his find.
"It's a great feeling. It didn't kick in till three days later - how important a find this is. The jar was buried right under the floor. The neck was partly covered by dirt but the coins were showing. So I knew right away that it was... treasure."
The ceramic jar, which itself is of high quality, a sign that its owner was wealthy, is believed to contain anything between 700 to 1000 silver coins, minted most likely in the town of Kutna Hora. There is no inscription on them, only a picture of the Czech lion. Historians estimate that for such an amount the owner could buy three cows. The find is now in a laboratory where it will be X-rayed and then the coins will be gently flushed out. The conservation and documentation will take several months, costing much more than is the actual value of the silver. But from a historical point of view, the find is priceless.
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