Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a substantial Roman complex dating back nearly 2,000 years. The find was made during excavations in a gravel quarry near Cham-Oberwil, in the canton of Zug, Switzerland.
This discovery is particularly significant as it’s the first time in nearly a century that such a large Roman stone building has been found in the canton of Zug.
The site, located in the elevated Äbnetwald region, has been under investigation for several decades, with previous excavations revealing evidence of settlements and graves from the Bronze Age and Iron Age. The recent discovery points to a large Roman complex that spans an area of at least 500 square meters, providing valuable insights into the scale of Roman presence in pre-Alpine Central Switzerland.
Dating back approximately 2,000 years, the complex consists of walls, rooms, and various structural elements, covering more than 5,000 square feet. The discovery is seen as an “archaeological sensation” by experts due to its historical significance and relatively good preservation.
Professor Christa Ebnöther, an archaeologist at the University of Bern, noted, “Only a few structural relics of this kind from the Roman period are known in the pre-Alpine region, in contrast to other regions.” This discovery challenges previous assumptions about the extent of Roman construction in this part of Switzerland.
The elevated location of the site near Äbnetwald provided an advantageous vantage point, likely contributing to the selection of this area for construction. It is still uncertain what the precise function of this monumental building was, with possibilities including a grand villa with scenic views or a religious temple.
Archaeological excavations have uncovered a wide range of artifacts. Among the finds are everyday objects like bowls, millstones, and amphorae, which were used to transport goods such as wine, olive oil, and fish sauce from the Mediterranean. The presence of these imported items suggests extensive trade routes during the Roman era.
In addition to utilitarian items, the site yielded more luxurious artifacts, including imported Roman tableware known as terra sigillata from Italy and Gaul. Remarkably, a fragment of gold, likely from a piece of jewelry, was also discovered. Such valuable objects hint at the possibility of elite individuals visiting or residing in the complex.
The excavation team also uncovered a selection of coins, including a silver denarius minted by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BCE. This particular coin features an elephant trampling on a snake or dragon, reflecting the tumultuous period of Roman history during which Caesar rose to power.
Karin Artho, the head of the Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archaeology, highlighted the importance of such discoveries, stating, “These pieces of the puzzle make it possible to trace the life of our ancestors and to better understand our history.”
The Äbnetwald gravel quarry, with its long history of human habitation and valuable archaeological discoveries, continues to be a focal point for uncovering the mysteries of the past.