Coins discovered in old city cave March 26, 2018.
(photo credit: COURTESY OF DR. EILAT MAZAR AND OURIA TADMOR)
Coins dating from the Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire (66 CE-70 CE) were discovered by archeologists during excavations near the southern wall of the Temple Mount on Monday, according to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
The archeological dig, run by Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, uncovered dozens of bronze coins measuring approximately 1.5 cm., as well as numerous fragments of pottery vessels.
The vessels, mainly jars and cooking pots, were left behind by Jewish residents who hid in a large cave that measured seven meters by 14 m.
The discovery of the coins, which were dated from the time of the Roman siege of Jerusalem until the destruction of the Second Temple, was given particular significance as they were found just before Passover, a celebration of Jewish freedom and self-determination.
While several of the coins date to the early years of the revolt, the majority are from its final year (69 CE-70 CE).
Mazar explained that there is a significant difference among the bronze coins, as in the first year when the rebels had hope and faith in their success, the inscription on the coins in ancient Hebrew script read: “For the Freedom of Zion.”
However, during the fourth year and before the destruction of the Temple, the rebels conveyed their despair by inscribing on the coins the inscription LeGeulat Tzion, meaning “For the Redemption of Zion.”
“A discovery like this – ancient coins bearing the words ‘Freedom’ and ‘Redemption’ found right before the Jewish Festival of Freedom, Passover, begins – is incredibly moving,” said Mazar.
In addition to Hebrew inscriptions, the coins were decorated with Jewish symbols, such as the four biblical plant species: Palm, myrtle, citron and willow as well as a picture of the goblet that was used in the Temple service.
According to Mazar, it is remarkable that the cave was never discovered by subsequent residents of Jerusalem nor used again after the Second Temple period.
She added that this allowed the cave to serve as a “veritable time capsule” of life in Jerusalem under the siege and during the four-year revolt against the Roman Empire.
Mazar said the coins were well preserved, probably because they were in use for such a short time.
A similar number of “Year Four” coins were found near Robinson’s Arch, near the Western Wall, by Prof. Benjamin Mazar, Eilat Mazar’s grandfather. He conducted the Temple Mount excavations right after the 1967 Six Day War on behalf of Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology.