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Alongside the coins, the team recovered a gold signet ring with “a red intaglio depicting the bust of a god” likely created in the first half of the 12th century, a foil of gold sheet weighing 24 grams that was stored in a case, and a small circular object made of gold.

Cluny Gold.

Knotted tanned hide bundle holding the gold objects.(2) & (4) gold dinars; (3) signet ring with intaglio; (5) contents of knotted tanned hide bundle.
Image credits Alexis Grattier / Université Lumière Lyon 2

The finding is exceptional on several counts. For starters, the sheer size and value of the of riches unearthed make this hoard stand out — this is the largest single stash of deniers ever found. It’s also a very unusual to find Arab coins in a monastic setting, both because of their huge value — which prohibited use in anything but the largest transactions — especially at Cluny, which was one of the largest abbeys of Western Europe during the Middle Ages.

The riches help color the history of Cluny Abbey, a historical site open to the public and also raise some very exciting questions. How did this treasure get here, who did it belong to and who brought it? And why was it hidden?

Vincent Borrel, a PhD student at the Archaeology and Philology of East and West (CNRS / ENS) research unit is currently studying the treasure in more detail to identify and date the various pieces with greater precision, hopefully gaining some insight into what the answers to these questions might be.