Potsdam – The gold treasure from Baitz is a historical sensation, experts call it a “mad find”. The treasure is more than 2000 years old, from the time when the Gauls fought the Romans. Fans of the cartoon character Asterix are very familiar with this phase of the story.
The treasure consists of 41 gold coins from the Celtic era – probably from the century before the birth of Christ. The honorary archaeologist Wolfgang Herkt found the first eleven coins in 2017 in a field in Hohen Fläming, southwest of Berlin. The treasure was only presented to the public on Monday.
Hidden secret for four years
“Up until now there was no gold treasure for the Celts in Brandenburg,” said Manja Schüle (SPD), the state’s culture minister. “The gold coins are a sensation, an irreplaceable source of information that offer a unique glimpse into our past.”
There are reasons for the fact that the treasure was only presented four years later: The place of discovery should remain a secret, the experts wanted to be able to examine the treasure thoroughly first. “But above all we wanted to make sure that the area around the site is searched several times,” says the regional archaeologist Franz Schopper. This should prevent illegal treasure hunters from finding historically valuable things.
Therefore, the specialists searched with metal detectors, and classical excavations also took place. After the first eleven coins, 30 more were found. And a Germanic village from the so-called Jasdorf period was uncovered. The Celtic coins were owned by the Germanic peoples.
What makes the treasure so valuable? “It was found far away from the Celts’ settlement area,” says the archaeologist Schoppe. Such a find of this size is said to be extremely unusual. Another Celtic coin has just been found in the whole of Brandenburg.
Not made by Asterix
The core areas of the Celts were once the regions of today’s Bohemia, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and France – the area of Asterix and the Gauls. Of course, the experts were also asked whether the treasure could have come from Asterix’s Gauls. “Apparently not,” said mint specialist Marjanko Pilekic. “The coins probably come from the Hessian or Rhineland-Palatinate area.”
The fact that Celtic coins are found in southwest Germany is not a sensation. It’s different in Brandenburg. According to the experts, the closest so-called exchange area between Celts and Teutons was in southern Thuringia. There are coins on the Germanic side as well.
“What is also special is that it is not a treasure that has been collected,” said Pilekic. The coins were not collected by traders or wealthy rulers for years. They come from a mint and were made at the same time. This is very illuminating for historians. “I only know one other such find from the Celtic times.”
Perhaps the payment for slaves
Even the experts cannot say what the treasure was worth at that time, there are only a few records of Celts. Chief archaeologist Schoppe sees several possibilities: The Germanic peoples could have got the gold for skins or long blond woman’s hair. But it could also have been a dowry for a Celtic woman who was married to the Teutons. “There is also the possibility that not only beautiful things were traded,” said Schoppe. The treasure could be the payment of slaves or mercenaries who were sold.
The coins are small and curved, they are also called “rainbow bowls”. The name comes from the farmers who found such coins in their fields – often after a downpour, when the gold was washed away from the water and shines in the sun on the field. “Back then it was said: happiness, that is, coins like that, can be found where the rainbow begins,” said coin expert Pilekic. The coins were also called star coins. They were assumed to have magical powers: They are said to have had healing powers. “And if you keep it at home, only good should happen to you.” That would explain why the treasure was kept as a prestige object.
Even the current value of this total of 178.5 grams of gold cannot be quantified by the experts. The material value of gold is not that great, one gram costs around 50 euros. The historical context is decisive for the value. “The connection is important, the fact that they were in a Germanic settlement,” said Schoppe. “Without such a context, even a gold coin from the Celts is not worth much.”
The finder is a quiet man with a long goatee. Wolfgang Herkt, 61 years old, has been active as a so-called honorary monument conservationist for decades. Minister Schüle emphasized that people like Wolfgang Herkt were trained archaeologists’ helpers. “They are real professionals.”
The treasure hunter was about to break off
Herkt says that he completed a two-year course. He has always been interested in regional history and has done a lot of self-study. He earns his money as a freelancer. He is an excavation assistant and helps when archaeologists examine construction sites.
He used to live in the area where he found the treasure. He had seen old broken pieces in the field. “And where there are broken pieces, there can be more,” he said. So in 2017 he went out with his metal detector. “I have the right to listen in the ground,” he said. It was a plowed field. “As a matter of principle, we always go out into the fields with the consent of the owner.” Why was he looking there? The field lies in the Baruther glacial valley, which is a favorable location, because back then people liked to settle on hills by the water.
He searched for about 90 minutes. “I felt like I had 20 kilos of junk and so I just wanted to run a final course,” he reported. “Then I had a super signal and saw something shiny gold.” At first he thought it was the lid of a small liquor bottle. “When I blew it off, there was a rainbow bowl in my hand.”
Is he entitled to a finder’s reward?
So he hung on for an hour and found eleven coins. “I’ve found silver before,” he said. “But gold is gold. You can only find gold once in a lifetime. ”And then another such treasure. He is happy to have done something for science as a volunteer. He didn’t want to own the gold either and called the state office straight away. Then he simply put the coins in his pocket. “They tinkled.”
He is not entitled to a finder’s reward, that’s the law. “If I search specifically, which I have done, I am not entitled to a finder’s fee,” said Herkt. But he hopes that the many volunteer seekers will at least get a subsidy for fuel costs.
At least Minister Schüle invited him to eat asparagus next spring. It comes from the region around the site, so it is also a treasure from Brandenburg soil.