Israeli archaeologists discover 1,200-year-old stash of gold coins

Archaeologists found the hoard of gold coins during excavations prior to construction of a new neighborhood in central Israel.

By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News

Last week, archaeologists working with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) discovered seven gold coins hidden in a small jug, which they believe date back to the early Islamic period, approximately 1,200 years ago.

According to one of the archaeologists quoted in an IAA statement, the find may represent “a potter’s personal savings” based on its location near the entrance to one of the kilns that was discovered at the site.

Archaeologists undertook the excavation at the behest of the Israel Lands Authority prior to the construction of a new neighborhood in Yavneh, an Israeli city located about halfway between Tel Aviv and Ashdod.

The hoard was discovered when archaeologists came upon a broken clay vessel, which excavations revealed had been hidden in an ancient industrial area that had been active for several hundred years.

“I was in the middle of cataloging a large number of artifacts we found during the excavations, when all of a sudden I heard shouts of joy,” said Liat Nadav-Ziv, who oversees the Yavneh excavations on behalf of the IAA alongside Dr. Elie Haddad.

Nadav-Ziv continued, “I ran towards the shouting and saw Marc Molkondov, a veteran archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, approaching me excitedly. We quickly followed him to the field where we were surprised to see the treasure. This is without a doubt a unique and exciting find, especially during the Chanukah holiday.”

Nadav-Ziv’s comments referenced the popular Jewish custom of giving chocolate coins covered in gold foil during the Chanukah holiday, with which children play a spinning top game called “dreidel.”

The IAA’s Dr. Robert Kool oversaw inspection of the Yavneh coins, dating the currency to the early Abbasid Period, which corresponds to the ninth century C.E.

Kool commented that the hoard contained coins “rarely found in Israel,” including a gold dinar from the reign of the Caliph Haroun A-Rashid (786-809 C.E.), the historical figure on whom the story “Arabian Nights” (“One Thousand and One Nights”) was based.

“These are gold dinars issued by the Aghlabid dynasty that ruled in North Africa, in the region of modern Tunisia, on behalf of the Abbasid Caliphate centered in Bagdad,” Kool added, referring to the find as “a wonderful Chanukah present.”

In addition to the coins, the Yavneh excavation produced an unusually large number of pottery kilns active at the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Early Islamic period, between the seventh and ninth centuries C.E.

According to the IAA, the kilns were used for commercial production of store-jars, bowls, and cooking pots.

In a different section of the Yavneh dig site, archaeologists discovered the remains of a large commercial wine-production facility dating back to the Persian period, between the fourth and fifth centuries B.C.E.

Approximately 46,700 Israelis reside in Yavneh, which is former NBA player Omri Casspi’s home town.