Hundreds of ancient Roman gold coins have been discovered on the site of an old theatre in Como in northern Italy.
The coins date back to the end of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and were found in a kind of stone urn in the Cressoni theatre basement, not far from the site of the ancient city of Novum Comum.
According to Italian media, the coins could be worth millions of euros.
“We do not yet know in detail the historical and cultural significance of this discovery but this area is a real treasure for our archaeology,” said Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli on Facebook.
The theatre, which was inaugurated in 1870 and later became a cinema before closing in 1997, was due to be demolished to allow the construction of a luxury residence.
Authorities now plan to suspend work at the site to allow further excavations, according to local media.
Italian authorities say the “epochal” discovery of hundreds of Roman-era gold coins were found during excavations to build a new apartment building.
Construction crews digging in the historic centre of Como discovered the small stone jar containing about 300 coins last week.
Mr Bonisoli joined archaeologists and the carabinieri art squad on Monday to unveil the first 27 coins after they had been catalogued.
Bonisoli said the coins, believed to date from 474 B.C., were extraordinary but still not fully understood, primarily because the jar holding them is unusual compared to other Roman-era amphorae that were common containers at the time.
He told a press conference: “More than exceptional it’s epochal, one of those discoveries that marks the course of history.”
Rare coin expert Dr Maria Grazia Facchinetti told a press conference the coins were “buried in such a way that in case of danger they could go and retrieve it”.
“They were stacked in rolls similar to those seen in the bank today,” she said.
“All of this makes us think that the owner is not a private subject, rather it could be a public bank or deposit.”
Dr Facchinetti said the coins have engravings about emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leon I, Antonio, and Libio Severo.
Authorities have moved the coins to a restoration laboratory in Milan, where archaeologists and other experts will examine them further.