Two Israeli teenagers on summer vacation unearthed a treasure trove of hundreds of gold coins dating back to 1,100 years ago.
The treasure, buried in a clay pot, was discovered during an archaeological dig in Yavne, central Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said on Monday.
Robert Kool, an IAA coin expert, said the coins date back to the late 9th century, when the region was under the control of the Abbasid Islamic Caliphate, a dynasty that ruled a territory ranging from Algeria modern day in Afghanistan. The coins – 425 in all – were made of 24-carat pure gold and weighed 845 grams (£ 1.86).
“With such a sum, a person could buy a luxurious house in one of the best areas of Fustat, the enormous wealthy capital of Egypt at the time,” Kool said.
The teenagers, who were participating in the pre-military national service, initially thought they had found very thin leaves buried in a jar.
“It was amazing. I dug in the ground and when I dug the ground I saw what looked like very thin leaves, ”said Oz Cohen, one of the young people who found the coins, in a communicated.
“When I looked again, I saw that they were gold coins. It was really exciting to find such a special and ancient treasure. ”
Finding such a large cache of gold coins is extremely rare, said the directors of the excavation site, as the gold was often melted down and reused by later civilizations.
“The pieces, made of pure gold which does not oxidize in the air, were found in excellent condition, as if they had been buried the day before. Their discovery may indicate that international trade took place between locals and remote areas, ”said Liat Nadav-Ziv and Elie Haddad of the IAA.
“The person who buried this treasure 1,100 years ago must have expected to recover it, and even secured the ship with a nail so that it would not move. We can only guess what kept him from coming back for this treasure, ”they added.
The gold coin collection contains full gold dinars, but also smaller cups of gold coins – used as loose change, Kool said.
One of the clippings is an exceptionally rare coin, he added, showing a fragment of Byzantine Emperor Theophilos, believed to have been minted in the capital of the neighboring empire, Constantinople.
Kool said the fragment of a Christian emperor found in an Islamic coin treasury speaks of the connections between empires, both in times of war and in peace.
In 2016, a hiker found a 2,000-year-old gold coin bearing the face of a Roman emperor in eastern Galilee. The coin is so rare that only one other such example is known, experts said at the time.
And in 2015, divers found a treasure of nearly 2,000 gold in the ancient Mediterranean port of Caesarea, which had languished on the seabed for around 1,000 years.