Chinese archaeologists recently excavated approximately 3,500 kilograms of coins, as well as more than 100 clay coin casting moulds, from the ruins of an ancient Chinese mint dating from the 1st Century AD according to several newspaper reports.
The coins were found at a site in the town of Huoluochaideng (霍洛柴登) in Ordos City (鄂尔多斯) which is located in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (内蒙古自治区).
The discovery was made after local police cracked three theft cases in August, 2012. Information obtained from the tomb robbers identified the location of three underground vaults, according to Lian Jilin, a researcher with the regional Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.
According to archaeologists, the ruins of the coin mint dates to the period from the reign of Emperor Wu (武帝 156-87 BC) of the Western Han Dynasty (西汉) to the reign of Wang Mang (王莽 9-23 AD) of the short-lived Xin Dynasty (新朝).
The newspaper article states that the discovery of such a large quantity of coins in one hoard is a rare event.
Unfortunately, none of the newspaper articles include photos of the discovery.
The digging is taking place at three pits. One site has revealed a fairly well-preserved kiln which was used to produce the clay moulds needed to cast the bronze coins. A kiln used to cast the coins was also discovered but it apparently is not as well-preserved.
In the “kiln room” and surrounding area were found more than 100 clay moulds used to cast coins. The moulds date from the period of Wang Mang. Seven of the moulds have the Chinese inscription shi jian guo yuan nian san yue (始建国元年三月). Shi jian guo (始建国) refers to the first era of Wang Mang’s reign. The inscription thus dates the coin moulds to the third month of the first year of Wang Mang’s reign which would be the year 9 AD.
The clay moulds include those used to cast the most common coins of the reign of Wang Mang, namely da quan wu shi (大泉五十 “large coin fifty”), xiao quan zhi yi (小泉直一 “small coin value one”), and huo quan (货泉 “wealth/money coin”).
The archaeologists point out that the discovery of such a large coin producing operation confirms that Wang Mang had lifted the order issued by Emperor Wu which prohibited the commanderies (prefectures) from minting coins.
Because the discovery was made so late in the year and with the winter conditions, it is unclear at this time what may ultimately be discovered at the two other sites.
Based on the size of the mint site and the coin hoard, Huoluochaideng must have been one of the important northern cities during the Western Han and Xin Dynasties. From the inscription found on a bronze seal discovered in a nearby grave, the area was known as the “West River Agriculture Commandery” (西河农令) during this period.