The largest hoard of gold coins ever discovered in Israel was found
in recent weeks on the seabed in the ancient harbor in Caesarea National Park by a group of divers from
a local diving club, according to a release from the Israel Antiquities Authority.
In all, almost 2,000 gold coins from the 11th century Fatimid period
were discovered. The coins carried dinar, half dinar, and quarter
dinar denominations, and had various dimensions and weight.
“The coins are in an excellent state of preservation," IAA
numismatic expert Robert Cole said, "and despite the fact they
were at the bottom of the sea for about a thousand years, they did not
require any cleaning or conservation intervention from the
LATEST: Who does the gold-coin hoard found in Israel
The divers at first they thought they had spotted a toy coin from a
game. It was only after they understood the coin was real that they
collected several and returned to the shore to inform the director of
the dive club about their find. The Marine Archaeology Unit of the IAA
was then notified, and after quickly organizing, divers of the IAA
went together with members of the diving club to where the coins were
found and unearthed the rest using a metal detector.
“The discovery of such a large hoard of coins that had such
tremendous economic power in antiquity raises several possibilities
regarding its presence on the seabed," Kobi Sharvit, director of
the IAA Marine Archaeology Unit, said. "There is probably a
shipwreck there of an official treasury boat which was on its way to
the central government in Egypt with taxes that had been collected."
VIDEO: Recovery of underwater hoard of gold coins in
Cole said several of the coins that were found in the assemblage
were bent and exhibit teeth and bite marks, evidence they were
physically inspected by their owners or the merchants. Other coins
bear signs of wear and abrasion from use while others seem as though
they were just minted.
The Caesarea Development Company
and Nature and Parks Authority said in a statement, “There is no doubt
that the discovery of the impressive treasure highlights the
uniqueness of Caesarea as an ancient port city with rich history and
cultural heritage. After 2,000 years it is still capable of
captivating its many visitors, of continuing to innovate and surprise
again when other parts of its mysterious past are revealed in the
ground and in the sea."
The IAA gave a history lesson about the coins found:
The earliest coin exposed in the treasure is a quarter dinar minted
in Palermo, Sicily, in the second half of the 9th century C.E. Most
of the coins though belong to the Fatimid caliphs Al-Ḥākim (996 to
1021 C.E ) and his son Al-Ẓāhir (1021 to 1036), and were minted in
Egypt and North Africa. The coin assemblage included no coins from
the Eastern Islamic dynasties and it can therefore be stated with
certainty this is a Fatimid treasure. The great value and
significance of the treasure become apparent when viewed in light of
the historical sources. For example, the description of the traveler
and geographer Ibn Jubayr who writes that the Muslim residents of
the settlements were required to pay the Fatimid government half
their agricultural produce at harvest time, in addition to payment
of a head tax of one dinar and five carats (24 carats equal one
dinar, hence the method used to measure gold according to carats).
Descriptions in the Cairo Geniza from the 11th and 12th century C.E.
tell, among other things, of the redemption of prisoners, including
Jewish captives from Ashkelon that were transferred to Egypt.
According to the documents, the Jewish community paid a sum of about
500 gold dinars to redeem and return them to Israel.
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