Ancient gold coins unearthed in Israel

12th Sep 2013

An unprecedented haul of rare coins and jewellery has been unearthed in Israel alongside an ancient jug inscribed with what's thought to be the earliest known example of text ever found in the region.

Found buried near Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the coins date back to the 7th century and include 36 gold pieces etched with images of Byzantine emperors. The find includes a Torah scroll and a 10cm medallion.

The inscribed earthenware jug is believed to date back 3,000 years and is one of half a dozen ceramic vessels found. The engraving predates the existing earliest known example of written text found in the area by some 250 years.

The trove was discovered in the ruins of a Byzantine building in the Ophel region of the city by Dr Eilat Mazar from Jerusalem's Hebrew University. It also includes a musical instrument called a shofar made from ram's horn.

Temple Mount is one of the holiest places in Jerusalem and is important to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike as well as being one of the sites that draws tourists to Jerusalem from around the world.

Two biblical Jewish temples once stood on the site and the area is believed to be part of an ancient city wall dating back to the 10th century BC and possibly built by King Solomon.

Dr Mazar made her find after discovering an inner gatehouse that would have given access to the royal quarter of the city along with an adjacent building and a corner tower overlooking the Kidron valley.

Emperors featured on the gold coins cover a 250-year period and include Constantine II and Mauricius.

Dr Mazar said she thought the artefacts were part of a "communal treasure meant to help the sparse Jewish community survive hard times or rebuild what the Jews hoped would be a free community under Persian rule".

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