A British tourist working in an archaeological dig in Jerusalem on Sunday unearthed a treasure of 264 gold coins from 1,300 years ago. Archaeologists called the find "one of the most impressive deposits ever found in the capital."

The coins were found by Nadine Ross, who came to Israel for one month to volunteer at the archaeological site at the City of David. They all carry the portrait of the Roman emperor Heraclius, who ruled the empire between 610 and 641.

On one side of the coins, Heraclius is depicted wearing a uniform while clasping a cross in his right hand. The flipside of the coin also features the sign of the cross. According to archaeological records, these coins were made during the early years of Heraclius' rule, between 610 and 613 - one year before the 614 Persian conquest of Jerusalem.

The two Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists who oversaw the dig, Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, say they believe the cache was placed inside a hidden niche inside the wall of a building.

"When the building collapsed, the coins would have been buried in the rubble," proposed Ben-Ami, who added that his diggers have found no signs to suggest that the treasure was placed in a clay pot, as was customary in that time.

However, the two researchers say they cannot make an educated guess as to why the building collapsed and whether this happened during the Persian takeover.

The Antiquities Authority began digging in the area two years ago, together with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and with funding from the Ir David Foundation - a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and development of the Biblical City of David and its environs.

Since then, the site near Henyon Giva'ati has produced a number of notable finds. Earlier this year, for example, the site yielded a remarkably well-preserved golden earring tasseled with pearls and precious stones. Like the coin treasure, the earring was found inside the remains of an impressive structure dated to the seventh century which diggers are gradually unearthing.

It is believed that the building was built in the twilight of the Byzantine era in the land of Israel, which began in 324 and ended in 638. Alternatively, it could also have been built in the early days of the Umayyad Caliphate, which reigned in this part of the world from 661 to 750.

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