Some 424 solid gold coins dating from 1,100 years ago were found during an archaeological dig in central Israel.
The coins were found after two National Service members noticed a sparkling in the ground and uncovered the buried treasure. The youth were taking part in a dig being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority ahead of the establishment of a new neighborhood in central Israel.
"It was surprising," said Oz Cohen, a member of the Tenuat Tarbut/Cultural Movement in Holon. "I was digging in the ground and when I scooped it out, I saw what looked like very thin leaves. When I looked again, I saw that these were gold coins. It was really exciting, to find such a special and ancient buried treasure."
"The cache, deliberately buried in the ground inside a clay jug, held 424 gold coins, with most dated to the early Islamic period and the Abbasid dynasty," explained Liat Nadav-Ziv and Dr. Eli Hadad, the administrators of the dig. "The person who buried his treasure 1,100 years ago definitely expected to come back to take them, and even fixed the vessel with a nail so that it would not move."
It's unknown why the person who buried the coins didn't return to get them. "We can only guess," said the two administrators, adding that the find was rare as gold is valuable and passed on from generation to generation and not found in archaeological digs.
Dr. Robert Cole, a coin expert at the Antiquities Authority, explained that the coin cache was one of the oldest ever found from the Abassid Period. The coins were made of 846 grams of solid 24-karat gold. "A significant amount of money in those days," explained Cole. "For example with a sum [of cash] like this, a person could buy a fancy house in one of the best neighborhoods in Fustat, the rich capital of Egypt at the time."
One of the coins found in the dig is extremely rare and has never been found in Israel before, a fragment of a gold solidus of the Emperor Theophilus which was minted in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire.
The presence of the coin in a cache of Islamic coins is physical evidence of connections between the two empires that were fighting at the time, according to Cole.