Antiquity of Southeastern Europe
Research Centre
University of Warsaw


    The Risan coin     hoard

    PhD studies





















The Risan coin hoard

According to the current view, in the 2nd century BC the mysterious king Ballaios ruled great parts of Illyria but also lands to the south, including the island Issa from his capital Rhizon. He minted his own coins with his depiction and the words „king Ballaios” on the front side. On the back, the goddess Artemis was depicted. It was Arthur Evans, who had already carried out excavations at Rhizon before discovering Knossos and who suspected after finding a number of those coins that a royal mint existed in this town. The autonomous minting of by Illyrian kings occurred only rarely in those times, since predominantly greek and roman coins were in use.
Up to the year 2000, when the Centre initiated excavations at Rhizon only a couple of dozens of these coins had been known, from Aquileia, Adria and some of unknown provenance in private collections.
Since the beginning of the excavations, polish archaeologists have discovered about 1000 Ballaios coins, mostly belonging to series previously unknown to numismatics.
In the current campaign, while excavating a hellenistic house, beneath the floor level a rather large ceramic vessel filled with coins was found. The clear form of the archaeological layers allows the assumption that the vessel was covered with debris caused by a fire. The nearby pottery finds, including the characteristic gnathia pottery (manufactured in the greek town of Egnahia in southern Italy) made it possible to date the deposition of the vessel in the 3rd cent. BC. Subsequently, Evans' theory should be corrected and the dating of Ballaios' reign shifted to a much earlier period. Earlier radiocarbon datings have indicated that the destruction layer is connected with the first illyrian war, thus it must have developped around 229 BC.
In the two-handled pot of local origin a hoard of 4656 coins was found. The overall good state of preservation allows to identify the coins as belonging to the Ballaios type. It also appears as though all coins were made of bronze, but it is impossible to be sure before conservation is finished. This is possibly the largest coins hoard from the 3rd century BC.
Among the values of this discovery lies the clear stratigraphic context. Due to the presence of charcoal in the vessel itself and the layer below and above (the floor) very precise radiocarbon datings will be possible.. The datings are carried out in independant laboratories, one of them is the Radiocarbon Laboratory Poznan
The coin hoard is of great value to numismatics as it allows to distinguish the various series of Ballaios coins within a closed context. This research is conducted by Dr. Renata Ciolek.
A thorough analisys of the new material will help specify the chronology of Ballaios' reign placing him properly in the history of Illyria. The coins will serve as a stable chronological indicator.
The initial results will be published within the next year and will be announced on our website.

The Risan research team:

Prof. Piotr Dyczek
Tomasz Kowal 
Martin Lemke
Janusz Recław



Ośrodek Badań nad Antykiem Europy Południowo Wschodniej UW
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00-927 Warszawa