An exciting archaeological find in Israel was announced early this week: a hoard of ancient gold, unearthed in excavations near Tel Aviv. A teenage volunteer digging the ground saw something glittering in the dirt. “It looked like very thin leaves,” he said. It was gold coins spilling out of a broken clay jug, exposed to daylight for the first time in perhaps 1,1000 years.
Israel Antiquities Authorities archaeologists Liat Nadav-Ziv and Elie Haddad said in a press statement that the”extremely rare” find comprised 425 complete gold coins and hundreds of gold clippings from other coins, to be used as change.
“We almost never find them in archaeological excavations, given that gold has always been extremely valuable, melted down and reused from generation to generation,” the directors said in a statement. “The coins, made of pure gold that does not oxidize in air, were found in excellent condition, as if buried the day before. Their finding may indicate that international trade took place between the area’s residents and remote areas.”
Antiquities Authority coin expert Robert Kool estimates that the coins date from the late 9th century, an era when the Abbasid caliphate was at its peak of power in the Near East and North Africa. “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,” Kool said.
Kool said, “Hopefully the study of the hoard will tell us more about a period of which we still know very little.”
The clay jug holding the coins had been firmly closed, and held in place with a nail before being placed in a hole and covered with dirt. There’s no way of knowing who buried it or for what purpose, but clearly it was concealed to be retrieved when the right time came.
Only the right time came an unimaginable thousand-odd years later.
Photos by Heidi Levine, AFP, and courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority.