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Rare silver coins found in Israel

Kate Brady (dpa)June 7, 2016

Sixteen silver coins dating back 2,140 years have been discovered during an archaeological excavation in central Israel. A tunnel system likely to have been used during the 66 AD Great Revolt were also unearthed.

Excavation site
Image: Colourbox

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) confirmed on Tuesday that the coins were found in April in the city of Modi'in, west of Jerusalem. Archaeologists there had been carrying out an excavation on a hilltop agricultural estate, established by a Jewish family. The hoard dates to the period of the Biblical Hasmonean Kingdom, which ruled the area of Judea from 140 BC until 37 BC.

Director of the excavation, Avraham Tendler, speculated that one of the estate members must have had to leave and "buried his money in the hope of coming back and collecting it, but was apparently unfortunate and never returned."

"It is exciting to think that the coin hoard was waiting here 2,140 years until we exposed it," Tendler said.

The Great Revolt

According to the IAA, the coins were minted in the city of Tyre, in what is now southern Lebanon, and bear the portraits of Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II. Antiochus VII ruled the Hellenistic empire from 138 BC to 129 BC.

Archaeologists also found several bronze coins minted by the Hasmonean kings. They bear the names of the kings Yehohanan, Judah, Jonathan and Mattathias.

The bronze coins - stamped with the date "Year Two" of the first local Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire which began in 66 AD and the slogan "Freedom of Zion" - are also evidence that the residents participated in the uprising.

An underground tunnel system used to hide in, as well as large stones used to create a barrier were also unearthed.

"It seems that local residents did not give up hope of gaining their independence from Rome, and they were well-prepared to fight the enemy during the Bar Kokhba uprising," Tendler said.

Archaeological park in the pipeline

Dozens of rock-hewn winepresses, as well as Jewish ritual baths, were also discovered, showing that the people living in the settlement followed the laws of ritual purity and impurity.

"The family members planted olive trees and vineyards on the neighboring hills and grew grain in valleys," Tendler said, adding that an industrial area, which includes an olive press and storehouses where the olive oil was kept, is currently being excavated next to the family's estate.

Excavations, such as that carried out in Modi'in, are mandatory in Israel before any new construction is built. A new neighborhood is planned on the site, which will now include an archaeological park to preserve the IAA's discoveries.