Daily Israel Report

Dream Come True: Buried Treasure Found Outside Temple Mount

A 1,300-year-old treasure of 264 gold coins has been unearthed at an archaeological dig below Dung Gate outside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 12/22/2008, 4:03 PM / Last Update: 12/22/2008, 4:33 PM

Israel News Photo: (courtesy of IAA)

A 1,300-year-old treasure of 250 gold coins has been unearthed at the archaeological dig just below Dung Gate outside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The excavation, which has already provided a series of fascinating finds, has been underway for two years at the Givati car park just outside and below the southern part of the Old City.

The stash was discovered Sunday by Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists, in a joint project with the Nature and Parks Authority that is sponsored by "Elad," the City of David Association.  The coins were found amidst the ruins of an impressively large building in the process of being uncovered. The building is dated from the end of the Byzantine period, around the seventh century C.E.   

Dr. Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tzachnovitz, who are leading the excavation, explained, “As no pottery was found near the treasure, it can be assumed that it was hidden in a concealed niche in a wall of the building.  It appears that as the building collapsed, the coins piled up among the ruins.”

The only other treasure of gold coins found from the same period in Jerusalem includes only five coins – compared to the 264 found now. The image of Caesar Heraclius, who ruled the East Roman Empire from 610 to 641, is engraved on the coins.

The archaeologists, whose excitement at finding the coins can barely be overstated, are still hoping to find answers to these questions: What was the nature of this building? Under what circumstances was it destroyed? Why were the coins buried there? How is it that they were forgotten, abandoned, or rendered inaccessible?

Searching for the answers to these and other riddles, the combing of the site continues.