'We're in the money'

Heaviest gold coin ever found in Israel.

August 12, 2010 06:21
1 minute read.
THE COIN was worth an average half-year’s salary.

gold coin 311. (photo credit: Sue Webb)

Archeologists at digs near the border with Lebanon have unearthed the heaviest gold coin ever found in Israel, the Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.

The artifact, weighing-in at almost an ounce, is nearly six times the average weight of ancient gold coins previously discovered in Israel.

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The 2,200-year-old coin was found during excavations carried out by the University of Minnesota and University of Michigan at Tel Kedesh in the upper Galilee. The “heads” side of the coin bears the name “Arsinoe Philadephus (II), the wife of Ptolemy II, while the reverse or “tails” side of the coin shows two overlapping cornucopia.

Inscriptions show the coin was minted in Alexandria by Ptolemy V in 191 BCE.

According to Dr. Donald T. Ariel, head of the Coin Department of the Antiquities Authority, the unusual size of the coin indicates it was used for symbolic or ceremonial purposes, possibly to honor Queen Arsinoe II, the co-leader of Egypt with Ptolemy II, her husband and half-brother.

“A coin this size wouldn’t have been circulating in the markets, it would have had ceremonial purpose,” Ariel said, adding that a coin of its size would have worth a mina, a unit of measurement equal to a hundred silver coins.

“This much silver would have been the equivalent of a half-year’s salary for an above average person at the time,” he said.

Tel Kedesh is a double mound that runs 900 meters north to south, covering between 20 and 25 acres of land. The spot was home to a number of different ethnic and cultural groups, including Phoenicians, Persians, and Canaanites, among others.

Excavations at the site have been ongoing since 1997, and have uncovered a large Persian/Hellinistic administrative building that sported reception halls, store rooms and an archive.

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