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The cache of coins uncovered by Yotam Dahan. Source: Ofir Hayat / Ynet News.

4th Century Coin Cache Found In Israeli Archaeological Hotspot

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A cache of coins, weighing 6 kilos (13 pounds) in total, was discovered by a tour guide near west Israel’s coastal town of Atlit on Tuesday, the 10th of August. Yotam Dahan, the tour guide from Klil in the Western Galilee area of Northern Israel found the antique coins on a family camping trip in Habonim beach. Dahan instantly handed over the coins to Israel Antiques Authority (IAA) Treasures of the State Department and was subsequently handed a certificate of appreciation for his act of Good Samaritanism. 

He decided to share his findings on Facebook, which prompted IAA archaeologist Karem Said to contact him. Dahan took him to the place of discovery the next morning, just 70 meters (229 feet) from the water, reports Ynet News .

"Handing such findings over to the national collection helps us, the archaeologists, complete more parts of the puzzle that is the history of the land of Israel," Said told Ynet. Dr. Donald Zvi-Ariel, a coin expert for the IAA, estimated that the stash was from the 4th century AD.

Habonim's History Of Maritime Trade

After spending almost two millennia in salty seawater, the coins had become crusted together. According to Jacob Sharvit, director of the IAA's Marine Archaeology Unit, the site of the discovery neighbors countless other archaeological sites dating back to the Neolithic period around 9,000 years ago. It is clear the area has a long and storied history of human activity and settlement. 

“The large ball of coins and the remnants of cloth left on it indicate that they were kept in a bag and clustered together, taking the shape of the bag as the metal oxidized in the marine environment. Given the large number of coins, it appears that the coins belonged to a ship and were used for trade." said Sharvit.

Habonim Beach ( עומר מרקובסקי / CC BY 2.5 )

He added that "Archaeological sites are prevalent all along the Habonim beach strip. Archaeological records show vessels were often washed ashore along with all their cargo. The bundle of coins found shows they were packed together and agglutinated due to oxidation of the metals,”

The site of the coin discovery is associated with a period of increased maritime activity and trade from 4,000 years ago. The rise and fall of the tides created a natural mooring and docking station for vessels to shelter safely, taking refuge for the night or seeking shelter from stormy and intense weathers.

Yet, archaeological evidence indicates that these vessels were not always successful, as the site is associated with numerous wreckages and lost cargo is scattered across the seabed. This includes cargo items belonging to a ship from the end of the Roman period (around the 5th century AD), including anchors and pottery.

Neolithic Israel

Israel is often seen as the cradle of Neolithic society and has many early Neolithic settlements. As recently as 2019, the largest Israeli Neolithic settlement was discovered near the town of Motza, dated to 9,000 years ago. The discovery dispelled the myth that sizeable sites were only on the other bank of the Jordan river, or north Levant.

The agriculture in this area is among the oldest known to be practiced in the world, with the semi-nomadic Natufian culture in the area domesticating the local wild cereals. There is also evidence that the Natufians both hunted and tamed wild animals, and particularly domesticated dogs

The Natufian culture spread across much of modern Israel and the Levant. Habonim beach is near Nahal Oren on this map (Crates / CC BY 3.0 )

Israel’s rich and long history has meant that coin finds and other such discoveries have never been uncommon. Indeed, coins or stashes of coin dating to ancient times have been found regularly, often completely by accident. Just last week, a 1,500-year-old Talmudic-era coin was found in the northern Galilee region, dated to between the 4th and 5th century AD, by a tourist family. In that case too, the finders of the coin handed the discovery over to Israeli authorities in an act of Good Samaritanism, reported Times of Israel

Top image: The cache of coins uncovered by Yotam Dahan. Source: Ofir Hayat / Ynet News .

By Sahir Pandey

References

Ynet. 2021. We've hit the mother lode! Camper unearths stash of ancient coins. Available at: https://www.ynetnews.com/travel/article/b1agnjbgt

JP Staff. 2021. Ancient 1,700-year-old coins found on Israeli beach. Available at: https://www.jpost.com/archaeology/ancient-1700-year-old-coins-found-on-israeli-beach-676687

Comments

I’m wondering if the top picture in this article is of the actual coin hoard that is the subject of this article. If not what types of coins comprised this cache & how is it known that it was ‘buried’ during the 4th c.?  How many of the coins were of copper, how many were of silver, gold or bronze. Which & what type of coin was dated to the 300s & were any of these coins dated to earlier periods?  What was going on in Isreal during the 4th c. centuries after the Romans destroyed the Jewish kingdom?  The statements about prehistoric settlement is nice but doesn't relate to the era which these coins represent.

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