A random discovery recently made by a hiker at an archeological site in the eastern Galilee turned out to be only the second known gold coin of its kind in the world, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Monday.
The 2,000-year-old relic, bearing the image of Emperor Augustus, was minted by Emperor Trajan as part of a series of nostalgic coins he dedicated to the Roman emperors who ruled before him.
Until the coin was found by Laurie Rimon, a member of Kibbutz Kfar Blum who was hiking with friends, the only other known version was on display at the British Museum, the IAA said.
“Laurie discerned a shiny object in the grass,” the authority said in a statement.
“When she picked it up, she realized it was an ancient gold coin.”
In short order, the group’s guide, Irit Zuk-Kovacsi, contacted the IAA with the help of archaeologist and veteran tour guide Dr. Motti Aviam, and within two hours a representative met the group in the field to analyze the object.
“This coin, minted in Rome in 107 CE, is rare on a global level,” said Dr. Danny Syon, a senior numismatist at the authority. “On the reverse, we have the symbols of the Roman legions next to the name of the ruler Trajan, and on the obverse, instead of an image of the emperor Trajan, as was usually the case, there is a portrait of the emperor Augustus Deified.”
According to Dr. Donald T. Ariel, head curator of the IAA’s coin department, the artifact could reflect the presence of the Roman army in the region some 2,000 years ago, possibly in the context of activity against Bar-Kochba supporters in the Galilee, although it is “very difficult to determine that on the basis of a single coin,” he said.
“Historical sources describing the period note that some Roman soldiers were paid a high salary of three gold coins, the equivalent of 75 silver coins, each payday,” Ariel explained. “Due to their high monetary value, soldiers were unable to purchase goods in the market with gold coins, as the merchants could not provide change for them.”
Ariel added that although the bronze and silver coins of Trajan were common in the country, the emperor’s gold coins were exceedingly rare.
“So far, only two other gold coins of this emperor have been registered in the State Treasures, one from Givat Shaul near Jerusalem, and the other from the Kiryat Gat region, and the details on both of them are different from those that appear on the rare coin that Laurie found,” he said.
Nir Distelfeld, an inspector with the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Theft, praised Rimon for reporting and turning over the invaluable antiquity.
“Laurie demonstrated exemplary civic behavior by handing this important coin over to the Antiquities Authority,” said Distelfeld. “This is an extraordinarily remarkable and surprising discovery. I believe that soon, thanks to Laurie, the public will be able to enjoy this rare find.”
“It is important to know that when you find an archaeological artifact, it is advisable to call IAA representatives to the location spot in the field,” he added.
“That way, we can also gather the relevant archaeological and contextual information from the site.”
For her part, Rimon said that returning the rare find was bittersweet.
“It was not easy parting with the coin,” she said.
“After all, it is not everyday one discovers such an amazing object, but I hope I will see it displayed in a museum in the near future.”
In the meantime, the IAA said it would award her a certificate of appreciation for her good citizenship.