updated 11/13/2006 8:58:25 PM ET 2006-11-14T01:58:25

Dutch archeologists have discovered an estimated 200 silver Roman coins, several jewels, an armband and a ring hidden in a clay pot, the city overseeing the dig said Monday.

The city of Cuijk, near the Maas river, 80 miles southeast of Amsterdam, said archeologists found the cache while excavating in an area where new housing is to be built.

So far, most of the treasure in the pot has only been examined with x-rays.

The first coin to be removed and cleaned bears the emblem of the eccentric Roman emperor Elagabalus, who reigned from 218-222 A.D., the city said.

"During the uncovering of the pot, it became apparent that it was placed precisely at the spot where a bolt of lighting struck," a statement by the city said. "Further study will have to determine whether ... the pot could have been buried as an offering, or if the inhabitants by chance had left these valuables hidden in this spot for fear of theft."

The area, known as "De Nielt," shows signs of Stone Age settlements. Romans first arrived in the area under Julius Caesar around 53 B.C., but the Netherlands south of the Rhine river wasn't firmly under Roman control until nearly a century later.

The people who lived there would likely have belonged to the Dutch tribe known as the Batavians. By the end of the third century A.D., De Nielt was colonized by German tribes from outside the empire — or at least parts of the settlement adopted the German building style.

The area fell into disuse, was inhabited again briefly in the early Middle Ages, and was again abandoned.

The company leading the dig, Becker & Van de Graaf, said its field excavation of the Roman-era settlement was complete, and it expects the remaining work will take about three months.

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