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
The artifact, weighing-in at almost an ounce, is nearly six
times the average weight of ancient gold coins previously discovered in
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
“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
“This much silver would have been the equivalent of a
half-year’s salary for an above average person at the time,” he said.
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
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.