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A 1,200-Year-Old Treasure Found in Southern Israel

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By: Arye Green

A small treasure consisting of several gold coins was found last week during a series of Israel Antiquities Authority archaeological excavations in Israel’s southern town of Yavneh.

The archaeologists discovered a broken clay juglet containing gold coins dating to the Early Islamic period (the 7th to 9th centuries CE). The excavations revealed an ancient industrial area that was active for several hundred years.

The archaeologists suggest that the shiny treasure may have been a potter’s personal “piggy bank”.

“I was in the middle of cataloging a large number of artifacts that we had found during the excavations when all of a sudden I heard shouts of joy,” said Liat Nadav-Ziv, co-director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, alongside Dr. Elie Haddad.

“I ran towards the shouting and saw Marc Molkondov, a veteran archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, approaching me excitedly. We quickly followed him to the field where we were surprised at the sight of the treasure. This is without a doubt a unique and exciting find, especially during the Chanukah holiday”.

Upon inspection of the gold coins, Dr. Robert Kool, an expert on ancient coins at the Israel Antiquities Authority, dated them to the early Abbasid Period (9th century CE).

Among the coins is a gold dinar from the reign of the Caliph Haroun A-Rashid (786-809 CE), on whom the popular story “Arabian Nights,” also known as “One Thousand and One Nights,” was based.

“The hoard also includes coins that are rarely found in Israel,” said Dr. Kool. “These are gold dinars issued by the Aghlabid dynasty that ruled in North Africa, in the region of modern Tunisia, on behalf of the Abbasid Caliphate centered in Bagdad.”

“Without a doubt this is a wonderful Chanukah present for us,” he concluded.

The large-scale excavation, carried out southeast of Tel Yavneh, revealed an unusually large number of pottery kilns that were active at the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Early Islamic period (7 th – 9 th centuries CE). The kilns were for commercial production of store-jars, cooking pots and bowls.

The gold hoard was found inside a small juglet, near the entrance to one of the kilns, and according to the archaeologists could have been the potter’s personal savings.

In a different area of the site, the remains of a large industrial installation were revealed, dating to the Persian period (4th – 5th centuries BCE) and used for the production of wine.

According to Dr. Haddad, “Initial analysis of the contents of the installation revealed ancient grape seeds. The size and number of vats found at the site indicated that wine was produced on a commercial scale, well beyond the local needs of Yavneh’s ancient inhabitants.”

(Tazpit Press Service)

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