“A currency is a sign of sovereignty. If you go into rebellion, you use one of the most obvious symbols of independence, and you mint coins. The inscription on the coin clearly expresses the rebels’ aspirations.”
A girl who visited the “archeological experience” in the Emek Tzurim Sifting Project in Jerusalem with her family discovered a rare 2,000-year-old silver shekel coin that may have been minted in the Temple as part of the Jewish Revolt against the Romans around 70 CE.
Scholars believe that the unearthed coin was extracted from the many silver reserves kept in the Second Temple and was probably minted by one of the Temple Priests, who joined forces with the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans shortly before the destruction of the Second Temple.
The coin weighs about 14 grams. On one side is an inscription of a cup with the caption: “Israeli shekel.” Next to the cup are the letters: ש”ב – shorthand for “second year” – the second year of the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans (67-68 CE). On the other side of the coin is an inscription identified by scholars as the headquarters of the High Priest, and next to it appear in ancient Hebrew script the words “Holy Jerusalem.”
Dr. Robert Kool, head of the Coin Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), said that the find is “rare, since out of many thousands of coins discovered to date in archeological excavations, only about 30 coins are made of silver, from the period of the Great Revolt.”
The coin was discovered in dirt that came from archeological excavations conducted by the IAA on the “Pilgrimage Road,” in the City of David.
Archaeologist Ari Levy, director of the excavation on behalf of the IAA, explained that the street, which connected the Siloam Pool in the south of the City of David to the Temple Mount in the north, was Jerusalem’s main street during the Second Temple period, where thousands of pilgrims marched on their way to the Temple.
“There is no doubt that there would have been extensive trading here. This is evidenced by the many weights and bronze coins we have found here. But to find a rebel coin made of pure silver is definitely very special and exciting,” he said.
Dr. Kool theorizes that the silver from which the coin was made came from the plentiful silver reserves in the Temple and that it was minted on the Temple Mount plaza, possibly by one of the priests who worked in coordination with the rebel leaders and assisted them.
Where else could you find silver in such quantity and such high quality in those days? Only in the Temple. “If so, we can say with caution that this coin is, apparently, one of the only items we can hold today that originated on the Temple itself,” he noted.
“Everyone knows the Arch of Titus in Rome and the descriptions of loot taken from the Temple that appear on it, but not many are familiar with the huge silver reserves that were in the Temple. You can learn from the ancient inscription uncovered by the researcher Géza Alföldy about the huge silver reserves that were in the Temple,” he added.
Dr. Amit Reem, Jerusalem District Archaeologist of the IAA, said that the inscription uncovered by Alföldy reveals that the famous Colosseum in Rome was built by the Romans from the spoils of the Temple looted from Jerusalem. It reads: “Emperor Vespasian (who, along with his son Titus, suppressed the Jewish Revolt and destroyed the Temple) ordered the construction of this new theater amphitheater (the Colosseum) from his share of the spoils.”
“One can only imagine the extent of the loot and the amount of money the Romans found in the Temple storehouses,” commented Reem.
Longing for the Days of David and Solomon
As part of the excavation, the earth from the dig was sent for wet sifting in the Emek Tzurim Project, and 11-year-old Liel Krutokop from Petah Tikva, who came with her parents and sister to do archeological sifting at the City of David, found it.
“We poured the bucket with the dirt on the strainer, and as we filtered the stones that were inside, I saw something round,” Liel said. “At first, I did not know what it was, but it looked different from all the other stones. My father brought it to one of the assistants, and she showed it to an archaeologist. He looked at it and said it was a silver coin that needed to be cleaned. I was very excited.”
The coin, which was sent to the IAA laboratories, underwent a chemical process for cleaning, and recently, upon completion of the process, the significance of the find became clear.
Kool explained that “a currency is a sign of sovereignty. If you go into rebellion, you use one of the most obvious symbols of independence, and you mint coins. The inscription on the coin clearly expresses the rebels’ aspirations.”
He further noted that “the choice to use ancient Hebrew script, which was no longer in use at the time, is not accidental. The use of this script came to express the longing of the people of the period for the days of David and Solomon and the days of a united Jewish kingdom, days when the people of Israel had full independence in the land.”
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