An ancient and valuable find was unearthed by archeologists during excavations in Jerusalem in October when they discovered a juglet (small pottery jar) containing a hidden treasure: four 1,000-year-old gold coins.
The extraordinary find, announced by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), was part of the Jewish Quarter Development Corporation’s plan to make the Western Wall Plaza more accessible to visitors coming from the Quarter.
However, the true significance of the recovered juglet was not immediately recognized.
IAA inspector Yevgenia Kapil had unearthed the juglet during preliminary digging at the site, but only when excavation director David Gellman was examining the finds, some weeks later, did he actually empty its contents, revealing the hidden treasure inside.
“To my great surprise,” says Gellman, “together with the soil, four shiny gold coins fell into my hand. This is the first time in my career as an archaeologist that I have discovered gold, and it is tremendously exciting.”
The coins, dating from the Early Islamic period, were made of pure gold, and were thought to date between the late 940s AD to the 970s AD, meaning that they were more than 1,000 years old.
IAA researcher Dr. Robert Kool explained:
“The coins were in excellent preservation and were immediately identifiable even without cleaning. The coins date to a relatively brief period, from the late 940s to the 970s AD. This was a time of radical political change, when control over Eretz Israel passed from the Sunni Abbasid caliphate, whose capital was Baghdad, Iraq, into the hands of its Shiite rivals—the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa., who conquered Egypt, Syria and Eretz Israel in those years.”
Dr. Kool noted that the profile of the coins reflected historical events almost perfectly. Two gold dinars were minted in Ramla during the rule of Caliph al-Muti‛ (946–974 AD). The other two gold coins were minted in Cairo by the Fatimid rulers al-Mu‘izz (953–975 AD) and his successor, al-‘Aziz (975–996 AD).
This is the first time in fifty years that a gold cache from the Fatimid period has been discovered in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The money, four dinars, was a considerable sum for most of the population at the time. It was equal to the monthly salary of a minor official, or four months’ salary for a common laborer. For many, times were extremely difficult.
Dr. Kool noted that for some, however, there were vast riches to be made.
According to The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Kool explained, “A senior treasury official could earn 7,000 gold dinars a month, and also receive additional incomes from his rural estates amounting to hundreds of thousands of gold dinars a year.”
The coins’ original owner may never be known, but the coins are certainly more valuable today for having been owned by them so long ago.