Rainbow cups

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, and with it come stories of mischievous leprechauns and the pots of gold they guard at the end of rainbows.

The surprising truth behind the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

You may already know that there is no “end” to the rainbow—science tells us that the shape of the rainbow is just an illusion. In fact, while those of us on earth can only see the light reflected by raindrops above the horizon, spectators on airplanes sometimes he can see the full 360-degree circle of the rainbow.

But this does not mean that the myths surrounding the discoveries of Celtic gold are completely false.

I’m going for gold

Six years ago, volunteer archaeologist Wolfgang Hercht received permission to search a local farm in Brandenburg, a province in northeastern Germany. He was rewarded for his efforts with the unexpected discovery of 11 Celtic gold coins.

Rainbow Gold Coins/The surprising truth behind the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

After reporting the stash at the Brandenburg State Archaeological Museum, a renewed search revealed 30 more coins.

“This is an extraordinary find that is probably only made once in a lifetime,” Herkt said in a statement. “It feels good to be able to contribute to the study of the country’s history with such a find.”

The coins have an unusual shape: instead of looking flat like the ones we use today, the newly discovered gold pieces are curved and almost look like little cups.

Read more: 6 times we tried to extract gold from sea water

A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

Marjanko Pilekić, a numismatist and research associate at the Coin Office of the Schloss Friedenstein Gotha Foundation in Germany, dated the hoard to between 125 BC and 30 BCminted in the Late Iron Age.

Rainbow Cups

Later – sometime between the Middle Ages and the 18th century according to some estimates – coins of this type earned the nickname regenbogenschüsselchenwhich translates to rainbow glasses from German.

This is an appropriate name for pieces of gold which were often found in plowed fields after a particularly heavy rain; their concave shape may even have allowed rain to collect in them, reflecting sunlight and making them easier to spot.

Popular belief is that the rainbows, a common sight after a roar, leave the coins in their wake wherever they touch the ground. Some even thought they brought good luck or good health.

Celtic coins

Rainbow cups are most often associated with the Celtic tribes of southern Germany and in particular with Lateen. This culture arose in the mid-fifth century BC when the Celts became familiar with Greek and Etruscan influences that originated south of the Alps.


Of the coins discovered in Brandenburg, 19 are staters — imitation of gold and silver coins found in ancient Greece. They are larger, with an average diameter of 0.7 inches and a weight of a quarter ounce, while the rest of the cache is considered 1/4 staters because they are about a quarter of that size.

The entire hoard is smooth-faced with no discernible images. But this is not true of all rainbow cups found in the past.

Often they have images of a torque — an ancient collar or necklace with open ends — and spheres on one side. On the other hand, you may find abstract head or bird headstar, hand, cross or some other ornament.

Rainbow Pot of Gold

“This is not only the second largest hoard of smooth arcuate bowls of this type and the largest find of Celtic coins in Brandenburg,” Pilekic said of the 2017 discovery. in a statement“but the site is also far from the actual distribution area.”

Far from home

While the Latin culture seemingly spread to regions as far as England, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic, the Celts never lived in Brandenburg. In fact, the German state is hundreds of miles from any place known to have been occupied by them.

The unexpected discovery therefore raised many questions about widespread trade networks in prehistoric Europe.

We know that small change in the ancient world was not used solely for monetary purposes as it is today; there is much evidence of coins minted for use as diplomatic gifts and even in religious rituals, among other things.

Whoever buried the 41 rainbow cups in Brandenburg Field will keep their secret for now – although we can probably rule out a mischievous leprechaun as the culprit in question.

Read more: Turning lead into gold

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