The excavations south of the Dung Gate, where previously an announcement was made of the discovery of the palace of Queen Helene of Adiabene, is the site of a cache of Byzantine coins. A Byzantine tourist volunteering at the dig made the find yesterday. CNN reports:
Some Israeli archaeologists are having a particularly happy Hanukkah.
The Israel Antiquities Authority reported a thrilling find Sunday — the discovery of 264 ancient gold coins in Jerusalem National Park.
The coins were minted during the early 7th century.
“This is one of the largest and most impressive coin hoards ever discovered in Jerusalem — certainly the largest and most important of its period,” said Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, who are directing the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Researchers discovered the coins at the beginning of the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which started at sunset on Sunday.
One of the customs of the holiday is to give “gelt,” or coins, to children, and the archaeologists are referring to the find as “Hanukkah money.”
The 1,400-year-old coins were found in the Giv’ati car park in the City of David in the walls around Jerusalem National Park, a site that has yielded other finds, including a well-preserved gold earring with pearls and precious stones.
They were in a collapsed building that dates back to the 7th century, the end of the Byzantine period. The coins bear a likeness of Heraclius, who was the Byzantine emperor from 610 to 641.
Usually archaeologists do not want to publicize the discovery of gold during an ongoing excavation, as it can lead to unwanted attention. Perhaps word got out before they could swear everyone to secrecy.