Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered a Byzantine-period industrial-agricultural area, including several artifacts, thought to be 1,500 years old—dating the site far older than previously assumed.
The dig, conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, commenced on the outskirts of Tel Aviv ahead of a new neighborhood development planned in Ramat Ha-Sharon.
Among other finds, the researchers unearthed plastered installations, a wine press paved with a mosaic, a rare gold coin from the seventh century, and a bronze chain once thought to have held up a chandelier.
The excavation also exposed the foundations of a large structure which may have been used as a warehouse or farmstead. People once worked at the site—but also lived there, researchers believe, as the remains of houses and two large baking ovens were also found.
“Inside the buildings and installations, we found many fragments of storage jars and cooking pots that were evidently used by laborers working in the fields here,” said Dr. Yoel Arbel, the excavation’s director, in a statement on behalf of the Authority.
“We also recovered stone mortars and millstones that were used to grind wheat and barley and probably also to crush herbs and medicinal plants,” he added. “Most of the stone implements are made of basalt from the Golan Heights and Galilee.”
Unexpectedly, the rare gold coin—minted by Byzantine emperor Heraclius in A.D. 638 or 639—was retrieved from the excavation site. “On one side, the emperor is depicted with his two sons and the reverse shows a cross on the hill of Golgotha,” the Authority stated, referencing the location where Jesus was crucified.
Adding to the coin’s intrigue, it had an inscription scratched into it, in Greek and possibly Arabic, which probably “marked” the name of the coin’s owner, as it would have been “highly valuable property.”
“The coin encapsulates fascinating data on the decline of Byzantine rule in the country and contemporary historical events, such as the Persian invasion and the emergence of Islam, and provides information on Christian and pagan symbolism and the local population who lived here,” stated Dr. Robert Kool, head of the Authority’s numismatics department.
Additionally, a number of other installations from the later period when the Persians invaded in the seventh century were found. These included a glass-making workshop and a warehouse, where four massive jars were found sunken into the floor. These jars would have likely stored grain or other products, protecting the contents from pests and dampness.
Several pottery lamps and imported serving wear, some decorated, were also found.
“I am thrilled by the finds and we have already started working with the directors of the Neve Gan North project on exactly how to integrate the current finds into the future neighborhood,” stated mayor of Ramat Ha-Sharon Avi Gruber.
“I want all our residents to enjoy learning about life here in antiquity and in the Middle Ages,” he added. “As we plan heritage-related events for the upcoming centenary, this opens up a whole new perspective on how people once lived in this part of the country.”