September 9, 2013
Rare Gold Treasure Unearthed In Jerusalem
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Third-generation archeologist Eliat Mazar and her colleagues have revealed two bundles of treasure that includes 36 gold coins, gold and silver jewelry, and a gold medallion with an etched menorah symbol on it. Also carved into the 4-inch medallion is a traditional Hebrew instrument, known as a shofar, and a Torah scroll.
The archeologists said they made their discovery five days into the latest phase of the excavations at the Ophel in Old Jerusalem. The artifacts were dated to the late Byzantine period in the early seventh century CE.
“We have been making significant finds from the First Temple Period in this area, a much earlier time in Jerusalem’s history, so discovering a golden seven-branched Menorah from the seventh century CE at the foot of the Temple Mount was a complete surprise,” Mazar said.
The menorah is a candelabrum with seven branches that has significant meaning in the Jewish religion and is the national symbol of the state of Israel. The researchers said that finding the engraved menorah reflects the historical presence of Jews in the area.
The archeologists said the locations of the finds indicate that one bundle was cautiously hidden underground while the second bundle was most likely abandoned in haste and strewn across the floor.
Mazar theorized that the artifacts were abandoned around the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614. After the Persians took over Jerusalem, many Jews returned to the city, forming the majority of its population and seeking religious freedom. However as the Persians' power waned, they sought an alliance with local Christians and ultimately allowed the Christians to expel the Jews from Jerusalem.
The Israeli archeologists said the menorah medallion is probably an ornament for a Torah scroll. It was discovered buried in a small depression, along with a smaller gold medallion, two pendants, a gold coil and a silver clasp – all thought to be Torah scroll ornamentation.
“It would appear that the most likely explanation is that the Ophel cache was earmarked as a contribution toward the building of a new synagogue, at a location that is near the Temple Mount,” Mazar said. “What is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful. The treasure was abandoned, and its owners could never return to collect it.”
The latest discovery represents just the third collection of gold coins to be found in archaeological sites in Jerusalem, according Lior Sandberg, numismatics specialist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology.
“The thirty-six gold coins can be dated to the reigns of different Byzantine emperors, ranging from the middle of the fourth century CE to the early seventh century CE,” Sandberg said.
A pair of large gold earrings, a gold-plated silver hexagonal prism and a silver ingot were also found with the coins. Fabric remnants suggested that these items were held in a cloth purse similar to the bundle that held the menorah medallion.