A priceless hoard of ancient Celtic gold, silver jewellery and coins has gone on show in Austria.
The sensational find could have been buried by its high-status owner either because of war or as an offering to 1st-century BC gods, say experts.
The centrepiece of the breathtaking haul is an intricately engraved torque-style necklace made of solid gold.
It also contained a matching gold bracelet and four richly decorated rings.
Archaeologists also found 28 Celtic silver coins in the haul, now on show in Salzburg Museum.
Some are stamped with a man’s head, while others show a deer or a man on horseback.
The treasure was first unearthed near Neumarkt am Wallersee, in the Austrian state of Salzburg, in May 2021.
Its acquisition was announced this week by the Salzburg Museum as part of its 100th-anniversary celebrations.
The exact location of the discovery has been kept secret to prevent treasure hunters from swarming the site.
Newsflash obtained a statement from the Salzburg Museum on 17th January saying: “For the 100th anniversary of the Salzburg Museum Association, an archaeological find of the century was acquired.
“A unique late Celtic hoard of gold jewellery and silver coins was recovered by archaeologists from the Federal Monuments Office and has now entered the Salzburg Museum collection through the Salzburg Museum Association.”
The original find was made by members of the public who called in experts immediately.
The museum said: “The historical find of the late Celtic deposit from the 1st century BC is spectacular.
“In May 2021, on a Friday afternoon, the Salzburg archaeology department of the Federal Monuments Office received a telephone report from Neumarkt am Wallersee.
“At the following on-site visit, the finder presented three large Celtic silver coins, two smooth finger rings and a solid gold bracelet.”
The experts said that further archaeological investigations by the Federal Monuments Office uncovered and documented 25 more silver coins, two gold finger rings and a necklace that was also made of gold.
The experts explained: “The treasure trove is similar to deposits of golden jewellery with silver or gold coins from the last centuries before Christ, which are known throughout Europe.
“In East Celtic Central Europe, however, they are even rarer than in the area of former Gaul and on the British Isles.”
The experts said that the rare find was probably produced “around the middle of the 1st century BC” before being buried “only a few decades later”.
They added: “The reason for this is unknown for the time being. However, the 1st century BC was a time of economic, social and political crises.
“Perhaps it is therefore a matter of a treasure that was not carefully concealed in the face of impending danger and time pressure.
“Possibly, however, cultic motifs such as an offering led to burial in the ground.
“The 28 large silver coins and the magnificent gold jewellery undoubtedly belonged to a high-ranking person.”
It is unclear how much the museum paid for the artefacts “after intensive negotiations”,
Salzburg Museum Director Martin Hochleitner said: “It is common for the purchase price to be kept confidential.
“The special value is that the pieces are in a public museum – part of our cultural heritage.”
And Federal Monuments Office expert Peter Hoeglinger said: “It’s gratifying that the finders didn’t dig it up themselves.
“Luckily they informed the experts. It is very rare that a depot find is regularly excavated under controlled conditions.”
The museum statement said that the discovery can be “considered a top-class enrichment of the late Celtic cultural heritage in Austria with Europe-wide appeal.
‘In addition to its outstanding quality, the find opens up valuable research bases for the culture of the late Iron Age, in particular through the precise documentation of its discovery and salvage.”
Salzburg State Governor Wilfried Haslauer said: “The hoard find from Neumarkt am Wallersee is an outstanding enrichment of the material cultural heritage.”
He added; “As a museum officer, it is a great pleasure for me that the find can now become part of our public collections in Salzburg thanks to the honesty of its finder, the measures taken by the Federal Monuments Office, the efforts of the Salzburg Museum and the financial commitment of the Salzburg Museum Association.
“As a benefit for science and research, as a highlight for those interested in culture and as a fascinating ambassador of Salzburg’s past for our young people.”
He also said: “It is a special stroke of luck that the unique opportunity to purchase the find of the century arose exactly in the year of the 100th anniversary of the Salzburg Museum Association. And it is an occasion for a special thank you to the soon-to-be 15,000 members of the Salzburg Museum Association, whose support and sponsorship actually make such unique acquisitions possible.”