While working on an elevator installation project to make the Western Wall Plaza of the City of Jerusalem more accessible to visitors, Israeli archaeologists unearthed a juglet (a small pottery jar) containing four gold coins that are roughly 1,000 years old.
During preliminary digging at the site last month, Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) inspector Yevgenia Kapil discovered the jar. A few weeks later, excavator David Gellman inspected the pristine piece of pottery and emptied its contents. What he found was quite remarkable.
“To my great surprise, along with the soil, four shiny gold coins fell into my hand. This is the first time in my career as an archaeologist that I have discovered gold, and it is tremendously exciting,” Gellman said.
The 1,000-year-old coins dated back to when the Holy Land was under Islamic control. The coins were in “excellent preservation and immediately identifiable even without cleaning,” IAA coin expert Dr. Robert Kool said in a statement.
Dr. Kool revealed that the coins “are a near perfect reflection of the historical events” in which they were minted. Their discovery marked the “first time in fifty years that a gold cache from the Fatimid period had been discovered in Jerusalem’s Old City.”
“The coins date from a relatively brief period, from the late 940s to the 970s CE. This was a time of radical political change, when control over Eretz Israel passed from the Sunni Abbasid caliphate… into the hands of … the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa… [The Fatimids] conquered Egypt, Syria and Eretz Israel in those years,” Dr. Kool stated.
“Two gold dinars were minted in Ramla during the rule of Caliph al-Muti‛ (946–974 CE) and his regional governor, Abu ‛Ali al-Qasim ibn al-Ihshid Unujur (946–961 CE). The other two gold coins were minted in Cairo by the Fatimid rulers al-Mu‘izz (953–975 CE) and his successor, al-‘Aziz (975–996 CE),” the coin specialist added.
Although four modern-day gold coins may not amount too much, “four dinars was a considerable sum of money for most of the population, who lived under difficult conditions at the time,” Dr. Kool informed.
He also said the amount discovered “was equal to the monthly salary of a minor official, or four months’ salary for a common laborer.”
“Compared with those people, the small handful of wealthy officials and merchants in the city earned huge salaries and amassed vast wealth,” Dr. Kool revealed.
“A senior treasury official could earn 7,000 gold dinars a month, and also receive additional incomes from his rural estates amounting to hundreds of thousands of gold dinars a year.”