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Hoarded Gold Coins

In December of 2008, an enormous hoard of 264 golden coins, thought to be 1,300 years old, was found during an ongoing excavation conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Givati car park inside the City of David. The Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out the excavations in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and the project is being funded by the Ir David Foundation. “This is one of the largest and most impressive coin hoards ever discovered in Jerusalem—certainly the largest and most important of its period,” commented the archaeologists.

Exciting Finds

Excavations at the site were begun about two years ago, and have turned up many exciting finds which will help flesh out the various chapters of the city's rich history. The current focus of the project is a big and important-looking building which was uncovered by the team and dates back to the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Umayyad period, around the seventh century CE. In exploring the ruins of this building, a huge cache of 264 all-gold coins was found.

Dr. Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, who direct the excavation, commented that, “Since no pottery vessel was discovered adjacent to the hoard, we can assume that it was concealed inside a hidden niche in one of the walls of the building. It seems that with its collapse, the coins piled up there among the building debris.”

Byzantine Emperor

To give the public some idea of the significance of this find, the archaeologists explained that the only other hoard of gold coins found in Jerusalem from this period consisted of a mere five coins. The current stash of coins bears the likeness of the emperor Heraclius, 610-641 CE. The ruler is depicted in military dress and holding a cross in his right hand. The underside of the coin displays the sign of the cross. It is believed these coins were minted at the beginning of the emperor's reign, between 610-613 CE, just one year before the Persians overthrew the Byzantine rule in Jerusalem.

The extraordinary discovery of the first coin, led to the discovery of many more such coins, all resting in a single spot on the ground, where they must have fallen and been buried over 1,300 years ago.

It's still early days and archaeologists don't yet know who owned the building, what purpose it served, how and why it was destroyed, why the owners did not take their valuable stash of coins and jewelry with them, and whether the stashing of the coins dates to the time the building was destroyed.  


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