A remarkably rare Celtic rainbow cup coin dating back to either the first or second century B.C., has been unearthed along the banks of the Lech River in southeastern Germany. According to folklore, these “rainbow cups” are believed to be golden droplets that descend from the heavens after rainbows.
This unique coin showcases an uncommon design featuring a four-pointed star encircled by arches on one side. Remarkably, there are only four known instances of rainbow cups adorned with such markings, with this particular discovery being the sole one with a documented finding location.
The individual who made this discovery, in collaboration with state archaeology authorities, stumbled upon the coin during the spring season, approximately 45 miles (70 kilometers) west of Munich, along the Lech River in Bavaria’s southern region.
Rare Celtic Rainbow Cup Coin:
Bernward Ziegaus, a senior curator at the State Archaeological Collection’s numismatic department, shared via email with Live Science that the circumstances surrounding how this 0.07-ounce (1.9 grams) coin came to be in that location remain a mystery. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that this spot is close to an ancient road. This roadway originally extended from what is now Trento in northern Italy. Eventually, it became recognized as the Roman road known as Via Claudia Augusta, traversing the Alps, as stated by Ziegaus.
There are only three known instances of rainbow cups featuring the star-and-arch design. As Ziegaus pointed out, interpreting the meaning behind this motif is quite challenging. The star might symbolize the four cardinal directions, while the arches could represent the horizon and the cyclical movement of the moon, signifying its rising and setting.
Bavaria’s earliest Celtic coins date back to the third century B.C. However, the Roman conquest of the region in 15 B.C. marked the end of Celtic coin production, with Roman coins subsequently becoming the primary currency in the area.
The individual who made the discovery, Michael Schwaiger, was offered 6,000 units of currency for both coins but wisely declined the offer. The landowner officially transferred his rights to the finder, and Schwaiger generously donated both coins to the State Archaeological Collection.
As for the other three known rainbow cups, they are held in private collections. State authorities intend to showcase the Denklingen coins in a new permanent exhibition at the State Archaeological Collection in Munich once the facility’s renovation is completed in March 2024.