Cache of Pure Gold Coins From Islamic Period Found in Central Israel

The 24-carat gold weighs 845 grams in total, enough to buy a luxurious house in the capital of Egypt during the Abbasid Caliphate

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Ninth-century gold coins from the Abbasid Caliphate found in central Israel on August 18, 2020.
Ninth-century gold coins from the Abbasid Caliphate found in central Israel on August 18, 2020.Credit: Yoli Shwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

More than 420 pure gold coins around 1,100 years old have been found in an archaeological dig in the center of the country, an extremely rare large find.

The 424 coins were discovered last week by two 18-year-olds who took part in a rescue excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority during the construction of a new neighborhood. The precise location has not been disclosed so as not to entice antiquities robbers.

The site in central Israel where the coins were found.Credit: Emil Aladjem / Israel Antiquities Authority

“I dug in the ground and when I swept away the soil, I saw what looked like very thin leaves,” said one of the 18-year-olds, Oz Cohen, who is currently doing premilitary service. “When I looked again I saw that they were gold coins. It was really exciting to find such a special and ancient treasure.”

The hoard has been dated to the Abbasid period in the ninth century. The coins were buried inside a clay jar that had been secured to the ground with a nail.

The coins had been hidden to be retrieved later.Credit: Yoli Shwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority

“The person who buried his treasure 1,100 years ago must have expected to come back to retrieve it. What prevented him from returning to collect his property? We can only guess,” said IAA archaeologist Liat Nadav-Ziv, who is leading the excavation with Elie Haddad, also of the antiquities authority.

The 24-carat gold weighs 845 grams in total. This is an enormous sum that the researchers believe was enough to buy a luxurious house in Fustat, the capital of Egypt at the time, near today’s Cairo. The hoard is composed of gold dinars as well as 270 gold dinar fragments that were cut to be used as “small change.”

A researcher with some of the coins.Credit: Yoli Shwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority

The cutting of gold and silver coins was common in Islamic countries in the ninth century; the cut coins replaced cheap bronze and copper coins.

In the ninth century, the site of the find was part of the Abbasid Caliphate, which ruled from Persia to North Africa, with its capital in Baghdad. One of the coins has never been found in Israeli excavations: a fragment of a gold solidus coin that was minted in Constantinople during the reign of Emperor Theophilus, who ruled the Byzantine Empire from 829 to 842.

The coins were buried inside a clay jar that had been secured to the ground with a nail. Credit: Yoli Shwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority

The Abbasid and Byzantine empires were rivals, but the Byzantine coins were honored in the Islamic empire as well, and the coin is evidence of the military and trade connections between the two empires. The coins were examined and analyzed by Robert Kool, the IAA’s numismatics expert.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott