1,200 year old hoard of gold coins found in Israel Antiquities Authority excavations at Yavneh
“Hanukka Gelt” was found last week during archaeological excavations in Yavneh during excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) prior to the development of a new neighborhood at the behest of the Israel Lands Authority. The archaeologists were surprised to discover a broken clay juglet containing gold coins dating to the Early Islamic period. The excavations revealed an ancient industrial area which was active for several hundred years, and 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 we found during the excavations when all of a sudden I heard shouts of joy” said Liat Nadav-Ziv, co-director alongside Dr. Elie Haddad of the excavation on behalf of the IAA. “I ran towards the shouting and saw Marc Molkondov, a veteran archaeologist of the IAA 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 Hanukkah holiday”.
Inspection of the Yavneh gold coins conducted by Dr. Robert Kool, an expert on ancient coins at the IAA, dates the coins 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” says 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 Hanukkah present for us” concludes Dr. Kool.
The large-scale excavation, carried out southeast of Tell Yavneh, revealed an unusually large amount of pottery kilns that was active at the end of the Byzantine and beginning of the Early Islamic period (7th– 9th 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 of the IAA “initial analysis of the contents of the installation revealed ancient grape pips (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.”
(Image: © Liat Nadav-Ziv, Israel Antiquities Authority)
According to Robert Kool, a coin expert with the IAA, one of the pieces reportedly dates to the reign of Caliph Haroun A-Rashid (A.D. 786-809), who later became a central character in the folk story collection "One Thousand and One Nights."
"The hoard also includes coins that are rarely found in Israel," Kool said in a statement. These include gold coins issued by Islamic rulers in North Africa (in modern-day Tunisia), Kool said.
Photo Credit: Liat Nadav-Ziv, Israel Antiquities Authority
Archaeologists found the coins in a small broken jug near the entrance to one of many ancient pottery kilns in Yavne, which appears to have been a hub of commercial pottery production from the seventh to the ninth centuries. Ceramic pots were versatile vessels used for storage, food preparation and dining, but the broken pot that contained the coins may have been a potter's personal "piggy bank," the team said.
The kiln was uncovered during a large-scale excavation of Yavne, prior to the construction of a new neighborhood there. Other sections of the dig have revealed significantly older buildings, including a wine-making facility dating to the Persian period (fourth to fifth century B.C.). The facility included way more wine vats than would have been needed to satisfy the local population, the archaeologists wrote, which means Yavne was likely a booming center of wine production — and therefore would have probably been a fun place to celebrate Hanukkah, after all.