Archaeologists ‘thrilled’ by ‘rare and unexpected’ gold treasure found in Israel

Jerusalem: Expert discusses rare coin from Bar Kokhba revolt

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Researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) encountered the “rare and unexpected” artefacts to the north of Tel Aviv, at Ramat Ha-Sharon. Archaeological excavations in preparation for the city’s planned expansion have revealed evidence of Byzantine-era industry in the region that prove the city’s history is “far more ancient than generally assumed”. Among the unearthed artefacts, archaeologists found an ancient winepress, bronze chain and Byzantine gold from the first half of the seventh century AD.

The excavated site is estimated to be at least 1,500-years-old, as evidence by the uncovered structures.

Diego Barkan, Tel Aviv Region District archaeologist for the IAA, said: “This is the first archaeological excavation ever conducted at the site, and only part of it was previously identified in an archaeological field survey.”

The ancient winepress was paved with a beautiful mosaic floor and plastered walls, with additional evidence pointing to the presence of a nearby farmhouse or warehouse.

Dr Yoel Arbel, excavation director, said: “Inside the buildings and installations, we found many fragments of storage jars and cooking pots that were used by labourers who worked in the fields here.

“We also recovered mortars and millstones used to grind wheat and barley and probably crush herbs and medicinal plants.

“Most of the stone implements are made of basalt stone from the Golan Heights and Galilee.”

But the most astonishing discovery was yet to come.

The IAA announced in a Facebook post: “One of the rare and unexpected finds uncovered during the excavation is a gold coin minted during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius in 638 or 639 CE.”

One side of the coin depicts the Byzantine ruler, flanked on both sides by his two sons.

The reverse features a cross upon the hill of Golgotha, which according to Christian tradition, is where Jesus Christ was crucified.

This would have been an incredibly valuable piece of gold, 1,300 years ago and its owner’s name has been inscribed on the coin.

According to Dr Robert Cole, head of the Antiquities Authority’s currency branch, the coin sheds new light on the end of Byzantine rule in Israel, the Persian invasion and the arrival of Islam.

The Byzantine Empire or the Eastern Roman Empire was founded in 330 AD with its capital in ancient Constantinople (Byzantium).

Following a period of decline and the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans, the empire was dissolved in 1453.

Some of the other structures uncovered at the archaeological site have been dated to the seventh century, after the Muslim conquest of Israel.

These include a glass-making workshop and a warehouse filled with four massive jars.

The jars would have been filled with grain and other raw materials to stop them from being spoiled or infested with disease.

Dr Arbel said: “In this period, people were not only working at the site but also lived here; we know this because we discovered the remains of houses and two large baking ovens.

The discoveries have been praised by Avi Gruber, the mayor of Ramat Ha-Sharon.

He said: “I am thrilled by the finds, and we have already started working with the contractors of the Neve Gan North project to integrate the finds within the future neighbourhood.

“I want all our residents to enjoy learning about ancient life here from late antiquity and the Middle Ages.

“We are currently planning to celebrate the cities 100-year anniversary, and these new findings give us a whole new perspective on how people once lived in this part of the country.”

Eli Eskozido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, added: “The material remains of the cultural heritage uncovered in our excavations, preserved for ages, are of the most important national assets.

“The Israel Antiquities Authority sees great importance in making the findings accessible to the public in partnership with local and international communities.”

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