A rare silver coin from the first century was found by an 11-year-old girl volunteering in an archaeological project, the Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Tuesday. The coin was likely minted by a priest who joined the Jewish rebels against the Romans, which would make it one of the very few remains coming directly from the Temple.
“This is a rare find, since out of many thousands of coins discovered to date in archaeological excavations, only about 30 are coins made of silver from the period of the Great Revolt,” said Dr. Robert Kool, head of the Coin Department at the IAA.
The coin, made of pure silver, weighs 14 grams. On one side it features a cup and the inscription: “Israeli shekel” and “second year,” referring to the second year of the revolt (67-68 CE).
On the other side, another inscription reads “Holy Jerusalem” in ancient Hebrew script, accompanied by another word that according to the experts refers to the headquarters of the High Priest in the Temple.
The coin was found by a participant in the Emek Tzurim Sifting Project, in which volunteers sift through the dirt excavated from the Pilgrimage Road.
Liel Krutokop came with her family from Petah Tikva to do archaeological sifting at the City of David.
“When I got to Emek Tzurim I thought there must be simple coins in the buckets, but I did not think I would find a coin myself, and certainly not such a rare coin from pure silver,” said the 11-year-old. “I was lucky to find it, but I also want to say thank you to my sister for choosing the bucket we sifted. If she had not chosen this particular bucket, I probably would not have found the coin.”
In the first century, coins were considered an important expression of sovereignty, and this was especially true for silver coins, much more valuable than bronze ones. A bronze coin would allow the purchase of a couple of loaves of bread, whereas a silver coin could be used for much more expensive items, including military equipment.
“A currency is a sign of sovereignty,” Kool said. “If you go into rebellion, you use one of the most obvious symbols of independence, and you mint coins. The inscription on the coin clearly expresses the rebels’ aspirations. The choice to use ancient Hebrew script, which was no longer in use at the time, is not accidental. The use of this script came to express the longing of the people of the period for the days of David and Solomon and the days of a united Jewish kingdom – days when the people of Israel had full independence in the land.”
Huge reserves of silver were kept in the Temple, and Kool believes that the silver used to mint the coin likely came from those reserves, in light of its quality.
“If so, we can cautiously say that this coin is apparently one of the only items we can hold today that originated on the Temple itself,” he said.
Archaeologist Ari Levy, who leads the excavation on behalf of the IAA, said the street where it was found, “which connected the Shiloah Pool in the south of the City of David to the Temple Mount in the north, was Jerusalem’s main street during the Second Temple period, where thousands of pilgrims marched on their way to the Temple. There is no doubt that there would have been extensive trading here. This is evidenced by the many weights and bronze coins we have found here. But to find a rebel coin made of pure silver is definitely very special and exciting.”