Ohh, shiny - The Silver Treasure of Kaiseraugst
The Silver Treasure of Kaiseraugst is part of the exhibition in Karlsruhe. And it IS an impressing view, a room full of shiny silver, the effects hightened by the special lights.
Kaiseraugst (Augusta Raurica, founded 44 BC) is a town at the upper Rhine in Switzerland. The florishing Roman town, trade centre because of a bridge across the Rhine, was since 260 AD under several attacks from the Germanic tribe of the Alamanni. The Emperor Diocletian ordered the building of a fortress, Castrum Rauracense, to protect town and bridge. Around 300 AD, it was the largest military fort at the Upper Rhine, with buildings not only for the soldiers but also for the administrative staff, and places where the population of the nearby town could flee in case of attacks. Parts of the enclosing stone walls can still be seen, they go by the name of Heidenmauer (Heathen Wall). On the most exposed southern side, the - partly restored - wall is 4 meters wide and in places stands to a height of 4.5 meters. But the fortress was destroyed shortly after 350 AD, probably by the Alamanni.
Around this time, the silver hoard was buried inside the fortress wall, there to be forgotten (the people who knew about it probably died in the war). It had been accumulated by Roman officers over a period of many years. Composed of Imperial gifts and inherited items, the treasure represented a very sizeable fortune - I bet the Alamanni would have liked to find it.
The so-Called Achilles Plate
Odysseus finds Achilles disguised as a woman
In 1961, a mechanical digger roused it from its long sleep, not knowing what it had brought forth mingled in heaps of earth. Two months later, the landlady of a nearby inn contacted archaeologists about several silver plates she found on the building site, and "if they had any use for the things." It turned out several other items had found their way into private collections til then and not everything has been returned (there are traces, imprints and such, of items still missing). But over the following years, the archaeologists accumulated a good part of the hoard: 58 kilogramms of pure silver wrought into magnificent platters and bowls, elaborate cutlery as well as coins and medallions. The treasure is of great significance not only because of its material value but also because it provides us with important information regarding late antique society and the remarkable craftsmanship of that period.
The first part of the treasure was renovated the way it was done in the 1960ies, attempting to reconstruct it in its former splendour. Thus, the pieces were cleaned, brought back into shape and traces of time and mishandling by the digger were removed as best as possible. But attitude has changed, and the part of the treasure returned by a private owner in 1995, was treated differently: the traces - imprints - of the hay in which the Romans had wrapped the pieces, have been left, as well as some destruction done by time and the mechanical digger. Thus part of the hoard is polished to a shine and demonstrates the grandeur of Late Antiquity craftmanship, the other part shows its history.(*I borrowed the picture from this site. It's maintained by a 10th Latin Class of a Swiss high school. The actual section tells about the kids visiting Kaiseraugst. The copyright to the picture remains theirs.)