A team of archaeologists in Israel has unearthed 44 Byzantine solid gold coins hidden under a wall 1,400 years ago.
Experts believe the coins were stashed around the time of the Muslim overthrow of the region before their owner fled.
Images show the team working at the Banias dig site in the Golan Heights Israel where the discovery was made.
The dig is located near a natural spring that was once linked to the Greek god Pan.
The footage also shows the coins after they were retrieved.
They are thought to have been buried during the Muslim Conquest of the Levantine Byzantine Empire, in 635 AD.
Newsflash obtained a statement from the Israel Antiquities Authority saying: “The hidden coin hoard provides evidence for a dramatic moment in the history of the country – the Muslim conquest of the Byzantine Empire and the establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate.”
Dr Yoav Lerer, who led the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: “The person who hid the coins between the stones of the wall, probably fled, hoping to later retrieve his property, but he failed to return.”
And Dr Gabriela Bijovsky, a coin expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority, examined the coins, which were made up entirely of pure gold, and “identified some coins of Emperor Phocas (602–610 CE), and many coins minted by Emperor Heraclius (610–641 CE)”.
The statement also said: “The latest coins of Heraclius date the coin hoard to the time of the Muslim Conquest of Byzantine Palestine in 635 CE.”
Lerer added: “The coin hoard, weighing about 170 g, was concealed within the base of an ashlar stone wall at the time of the Muslim conquest. The discovery reflects a specific moment in time, when we can imagine the owner concealing his fortune in the threat of war, hoping to return one day to retrieve his property. In retrospect, we know that he was less fortunate.
“The discovery of the coin hoard may also shed light on the economy of the city of Banias during the last 40 years of Byzantine rule.”
Dr Bijovsky said: “Most of the coins are of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius and what is particularly interesting is that in his early years as emperor, only his portrait was depicted on the coin, whereas after a short time, the images of his sons also appear. One can actually follow his sons growing up – from childhood until their image appears the same size as their father, who is depicted with a long beard.”
The statement also said that discoveries in the area cover a period of approximately 600 years. It said: “In the excavation, which took place in the northwestern residential quarter of the ancient city of Banias, the remains of buildings, water channels and pipes, a pottery kiln, bronze coins, and fragments of many pottery, glass, and metal artifacts, were found. The finds date to the end of the Byzantine period (early seventh century CE), and to the early Middle Ages (11th–13th centuries).”
The experts explained that the Banias area was first settled by Canaanites who made a shrine to the god Baal before the site became a site dedicated to the Greek god Pan during the Hellenistic period. The statement said: “Banias, now a National Park, is an archaeological site that was settled around a large spring in several periods, first established by Canaanites, who dedicated a shrine to the god Baal. In the Hellenistic period, Banias served as a cultic site to the god Pan (from whence the original Greek name of the site).
“The settlement reached its peak in the Early Roman period, when Herod the Great, and his son Philip II, entirely rebuilt the city and named it Caesarea Philippi, in honor of the Roman emperor Augustus.
“According to Christian tradition, Banias gained fame as the place where the Apostle Peter proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, and Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
“In the Byzantine period, a church was built next to the spring. In the Crusader period, in 1129, the Crusaders undertook the fortification of the city to make it a military base from which to attack and conquer Damascus, but this was short-lived as the Moslems conquered the city in 1132 CE.”
Eli Escusido, the Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: “The coin hoard is an extremely significant archaeological find as it dates to an important transitional period in the history of the city of Banias and the entire region of the Levant.
“The Israel Antiquities Authority, together with the National Parks Authority, will work together to exhibit the treasure to the public.”
And Raya Shurky, Director of the National Parks Authority, said: “The Banias Nature Reserve, endowed with its unique nature and landscape, does not cease to surprise us from a historical-cultural point of view.
“The gold coin hoard is on a par with the Byzantine Church, possibly the Church of St. Peter, that was recently discovered. The finds include the remains of a mosaic floor and a stone engraved with many crosses, indicating that Banias became a Christian pilgrim site.
“The church, that was damaged in an earthquake that struck the north of the country, will soon be exhibited to the public visiting the nature reserve.”
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