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KREMLIN CREW STUMBLES UPON A TREASURE TROVE OF 16TH-CENTURY COINS

SHARE KREMLIN CREW STUMBLES UPON A TREASURE TROVE OF 16TH-CENTURY COINS

Soldiers digging in the Kremlin foundations have stumbled on a forgotten treasure trove of silver coins buried four centuries ago, historians and archaeologists said Wednesday.

The head of archaeology for the Kremlin's museums, Tatyana Panova, told a news conference the coins were probably buried in October 1612, when Russian forces were laying siege to the complex, which had been occupied by Polish troops.The cache was found in a basement in the former Senate building of Moscow's ancient fortress, home of czars and pretenders throughout centuries of turbulent history. Restoration began on the 18th-century building in April.

"Earth was being cleared out so pipes could be laid and, since there were cultural artifacts dating from the Middle Ages, we were able to find the cache there too," she said. It was buried five meters (16 feet) under a basement floor.

"Unfortunately, at the moment of the find, there was a spade blow so the jug which contained the coins - a little clay jar with a handle - was broken." Despite the July 26 accident, Panova said, all the coins had been recovered from the site.

The 3,426 silver Russian kopecks and one Polish coin were minted all through the 16th century - the period of Ivan the Terrible and Boris Godunov's reigns, and an age of siege, armed upheavals and betrayal remembered as "the time of troubles."

Kremlin museums director Irina Rodimtseva said it was too early to assess what the coins were worth. An attempt would be made to put a value on them after they had been fully restored, she said.