Onion patch yields unexpected treasure

Golden Hungarian ducats, photo: J. Bumerl / Museum of Podblanicko

While working in his onion garden, a pensioner from the Central Bohemian village of Čelivo discovered a vessel with nearly 600 coins dating back to mid-15th century. This week, the man was rewarded for his discovery by the local authorities.

Golden Hungarian ducats,  photo: J. Bumerl / Museum of Podblanicko
Last August, 90-year-old pensioner Miroslav Jurníček harvested onions from his garden, when he noticed a small golden coin lying on the ground. He started rummaging around and eventually unearthed a vessel full of gold and silver coins. Here is how he described the moment of discovery for Czech Radio:

“The following day I took a metal rake and started poking around, but I didn’t see anything. So I went a bit deeper and suddenly I noticed a few more coins.

“So I thought: here it comes and I dug in the ground once again. That’s when I discovered the treasure.

“I have to admit that despite my old age, I was really surprised. In fact, I was beside myself with joy. I think the treasure is a form of compensation for last year’s poor harvest, caused by the draught. These coins really make up for it.”

Broken vessel which contained the coins,  photo: Věra Hájková / Czech Radio
According to Mr Jurníček’s son, Zdeněk, they hit the ground right next to the vessel, which contained the coins, breaking off its upper part. When they realised the extent of their discovery, they stopped digging and immediately contacted the local authorities.

“It was the archaeologists who took the vessel out. They were really happy that they could document the unearthing of the treasure from the ground.”

In total, the treasure trove contains 583 coins that were minted between the years 1350 and 1455. It is mostly low-quality small change minted in Germany and Austria, but there are also two silver Groshen, issued under the rule of John of Bohemia, Charles IV and Václav IV.

The most valuable items are two golden Hungarian ducats issued by Sigismund of Luxembourg and Albert the Magnanimous. After being cleaned and analysed by experts, the coins were deposited in the collections of the Museum of Podblanicko in the Central Bohemian town of Vlašim.

The museum’s director, Radovan Cáder, reveals more details about the treasure:

Miroslav Jurníček  (right),  photo: Věra Hájková / Czech Radio
“The trove dates back to the mid-15th century. It was a time of unrest and monetary crisis, which is reflected in the content of the treasure. It contains Prague Groshen, but it mostly consists of smaller coins, mostly pfennigs.”

“With regard to the volume, it is the largest discovery in the Podblanicko region dating to that era. For that amount of money, people could buy two horses, two swords, six cows, eleven pigs and 17 pairs of shoes.”

On Thursday, Mr Jurníček received a reward from the Central Bohemian Region, which now owns the treasure. The coins will go on public display in autumn this year as part of an exhibition dedicated to recent archaeological discoveries in the region.