1,000-year-old gold coins unearthed in Jerusalem pottery juglet

“We evidently discovered an ancient savings box.”

By World Israel News Staff

A juglet (small pottery jar) containing four pure gold coins dating back more than a thousand years (the Early Islamic period) was unearthed during archaeological excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The dig was part of the Jewish Quarter Development Corporation’s plan to build an elevator and make the Western Wall Plaza accessible to visitors coming from the Quarter.

The juglet was found by Israel Antiquities Authority inspector Yevgenia Kapil during preliminary digging at the site last month. Some weeks later, as excavation director David Gellman was examining the finds, he emptied the contents of the juglet.

“To my great surprise,” says Gellman, “along with the soil , four shiny gold coins fell into my hand. This is the first time in my career as an archaeologist that I have discovered gold, and it is tremendously exciting.”

According to Dr. Robert Kool, the Israel Antiquities Authority’s coin expert, “The coins were in excellent preservation and were immediately identifiable even without cleaning.”

“The coins date from a relatively brief period, from the late 940s to the 970s CE. This was a time of radical political change, when control over Eretz Israel [the Land of Israel] passed from the Sunni Abbasid caliphate, whose capital was Baghdad, Iraq, into the hands of its Shiite rivals—the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa, who conquered Egypt, Syria and Eretz Israel in those years.

“The profile of the coins found in the juglet are a near-perfect reflection of the historical events,” Kool said. Two gold dinars were minted in Ramla (946–974 CE)  and the other two coins in Cairo (953–975 CE).

According to Kool, “This is the first time in 50 years that a gold cache from the Fatimid period has been discovered in Jerusalem’s Old City. In the large-scale excavations directed by Prof. Benjamin Mazar after the Six Day War, not far from the current discovery, five coin and jewelry hoards from this period were uncovered south of the Temple Mount.”

“Four dinars was a considerable sum of money for most of the population, who lived under difficult conditions at the time,” added Kool.

“It was equal to the monthly salary of a minor official, or four months’ salary for a common laborer. Compared with those people, the small handful of wealthy officials and merchants in the city earned huge salaries and amassed vast wealth,” he said.

“A senior treasury official could earn 7,000 gold dinars a month, and also receive additional incomes from his rural estates amounting to hundreds of thousands of gold dinars a year.”