An archaeological excavation near the Western Wall in Jerusalem has led to the discovery of a pottery juglet containing four pure gold coins estimated to be 1,000 years old, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.
The excavation was part of an elevator-installation project by the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City. The juglet is believed to be from the Early Islamic period, officials said.
The Israel Antiquities Authority said inspector Yevgenia Kapil made the find in a preliminary dig at the site in October. Several weeks later, excavation director David Gellman opened the juglet and found the coins.
“To my great surprise, along with the soil, four shiny gold coins fell into my hand,” Gellman said in a statement. “This is the first time in my career as an archaeologist that I have discovered gold, and it is tremendously exciting.”
Expert Robert Kool said the coins are in excellent condition and were immediately identifiable.
“This was a time of radical political change, when control over Eretz Israel passed from the Sunni Abbasid caliphate, whose capital was Baghdad, Iraq, into the hands of its Shiite rivals — the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa, who conquered Egypt, Syria and Eretz Israel in those years,” he said.
Kool said the coins are “a near-perfect reflection” of the historical period and the find is the first in 50 years in which a gold trove from the Fatimid period has been unearthed in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Kool added that the coins were worth a “considerable sum of money” for the era in which they were minted, especially to those living in the difficult conditions of the period.
“It was equal to the monthly salary of a minor official, or four months’ salary for a common laborer,” he said. “Compared with those people, the small handful of wealthy officials and merchants in the city earned huge salaries and amassed vast wealth.”