Rare archaeological find made by youth reveals clues to life 1,100 years ago

August 26, 2020 by TPS
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An impressive and rare coin hoard from the Abbasid period, dating around 1,100 years ago, was uncovered by youth volunteering before their army service, in an archeological excavation carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority, during the construction of a neighbourhood in the centre of the country.

Photo by Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority

According to Oz Cohen, one of the youth, “I dug in the ground and when I excavated the soil, saw what looked like very thin leaves. When I looked again I saw these were gold coins. It was really exciting to find such a special and ancient treasure.”

What Cohen and his fellow volunteer found turned out to be a very rare and valuable treasure which will hopefully add to our knowledge “about a period of which we still know very little,” says Dr. Robert Kool, a coin expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Two of the areas in which this find sheds light are the ancient monetary system and connections between empires.

In terms of how money was used, Kool says, “The hoard consists of full gold dinars, but also – what is unusual – contains about 270 small gold cuttings – pieces of gold dinars cut to serve as ‘small change’. The cutting of gold and silver coins was a regular feature of the monetary system in Islamic countries after the 850s, with the sudden disappearance of bronze and copper coins.

The find by the young volunteers may also reveal information about the interaction between ancient societies. Says Kool, “One of the cuttings is an exceptional rare piece, never found in excavations in Israel: a fragment of a gold solidus of the Byzantine emperor Theophilos (829 – 842 CE), minted in empire’s capital of Constantinople. The appearance of this small byzantine coin fragment in an Islamic coin hoard is rare material evidence of the continuous connections (war, trade) between the two rival empires during this period.”


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