8 December 2015 – the end of January 2016

Exhibition curators: Alicja Gałęzowska, Patrycja Silska

The silver hoard from Siedlików, which is the theme of this exhibition, was discovered in 1880 near Ostrzeszów in Wielkopolska (Greater Poland). Deposited in the fifth century, it comprised hundreds of coins, a silver bar, and jewellery. The assemblage became known not only for the accumulated wealth and unique finds but also its untypical place of deposition in a large pit of a bloomery.

Numerous remains of smelting furnaces were found in this area during the exploitation of slag for iron works located in the city of Chorzów. The abundance of ancient iron in the region attracted interest of antiquarians and local landowners to no lesser extent than the hoard itself. These revelations were published immediately in daily press and scientific literature. Thanks to the nineteenth-century references and archaeological archives we can look again at the find from Siedlików, especially in the context of its protection, the furnace type and the types of the discovered Roman denarii.

The artefacts displayed at the exhibition comprise only a small portion of the hoard. The whole monetary assemblage was lost in unexplained circumstances. We know that it was one of  denarii hoards (found in large numbers in the area of the European Barbaricum) containing the youngest coins issued in the first years of the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211). Descriptions of some of the coins have allowed us to identify several types of denarii and show for the first time what they looked like.

The exhibition displays non-monetary silver elements of the hoard, which are held in the collection of the Archaeological Museum in Poznań. They include: a silver bar (the only find of this kind known from Poland), a massive belt buckle frame typical of the Migration Period, and a pair of large, partially gilded fibulae ornamented with stamp decoration characteristic of the vast areas of Europe in the first half of the fifth century. Interestingly, the hoard contained also a lunula shaped pendant or amulet suspended on a chain, lost in the 19th century.

The old Roman coins deposited in hoards dating to the Migration Period testify to long-lasting use of denarii issued in the first and the second centuries. They may have been kept or collected by aristocratic families of that time.

Previously researchers thought that hoards were deposited in the ground in unsettled times. Currently, the prevailing hypothesis says that they may have been sacrifices associated with eschatological notions. This view is supported by the presence of jewellery, mostly female (particularly large fibulae) which was essential equipment of graves belonging to Barbarian elites from the Late Antiquity. These sacrifices served presumably to gain the favour of gods and ensure the elites high status and quality of existence in the afterlife.

Hoard from Siedlików, photo P. Silskaphoto P. Silska