Hundreds of Roman coins, dating back at least 1,500 years, have been unearthed at the site of a former theatre in Italy's north.
The coins were found in Como — on the banks of the famous Lake Como, about 50 kilometres north of Milan — and were found hidden inside a soapstone jar during an excavation of the historic Cressoni Theatre.
Engravings on the nearly 300 coins suggest they date back to at least 474 AD, and it has been suggested they could be worth millions of dollars.
Maria Grazia Facchinetti, an expert in rare coins, told a press conference the coins were "buried in such a way that in case of danger they could go and retrieve it".
"They were stacked in rolls similar to those seen in the bank today," she said.
"All of this makes us think that the owner is not a private subject, rather it could be a public bank or deposit."
Dr Facchinetti said the coins have engravings about emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leon I, Antonio, and Libio Severo, "so they don't go beyond 474 AD".
Archaeologists also uncovered a golden bar inside the jar.
Italy's Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Alberto Bonisoli, said the discovery filled him with pride.
"We do not yet know in detail the historical and cultural significance of the find," he said in a press release.
"But that area is proving to be a real treasure for our archaeology."
The Italian Government said the site was used as a theatre between 1807 and 1997 and was not far from the Novum Comum area, where other important Roman artefacts have already been discovered.
Authorities have transported the coins to a restoration laboratory in Milan, where archaeologists, restorers and rare coin experts will work on the treasure.