The nine bronze coins
The nine bronze coinsYuli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority

Nine bronze coins from the Byzantine period were discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority near Ein Hemed during excavations in preparation for the expansion of Route 1.

Last June, excavations revealed a two-story tower next to a complex wine press.

According to Israel Antiquities Authority Excavation Head Annette Landes-Nagar, "The treasure was found next to a building, in a pile of large stones. It seems that during a dangerous period, the owner placed the coins in a wallet inside a hidden niche in the wall, hoping to come back for it later. But today we know he never collected them."

On the coins are images of three Byzantine emperors: Justinian (483-565 CE), Mauricius (539-602 CE), and Phocas (547-610 CE). These appear on three different coins, all of them from the area which is currently Turkey: Constantinople, Antioch, and Nicomedia.

On the face of each coin is an image of the emperor wearing an army uniform, as well as crosses. On the back of each coin is its value, as well as the letter M.

"This treasure shows what happened to this ancient site," Landes-Nagar said. "The historical background is connected, apparently, to the invasion of the Sasanian Neo-Persian Empire, which took place in the year 614 CE. Among other things, this invasion brought about the end of the Byzantine rule in Israel."

The site's residents feared the invaders, and therefore hid their money in a hidden niche in the wall. They never managed to return, however, and the site was left deserted and eventually destroyed.

Both the building and the wine press beside it belong to a larger excavation site which extends across the width of Route 1 and within which a Byzantine-era church has also been uncovered. Archaeologists have suggested the town in question may be "Ein Bikomkoba" and that its name may have been accidentally switched with that of the neighboring Arab village Ein Neqouba.

This site is located near the main road leading from Jerusalem to the beach, and served Christian pilgrims who made their way to Jerusalem. At the sides of this road, villages and rest stops for travelers were built.

Israel Antiquities Authority Judea Division archaeologist Amit Shedman said, "The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Paths Transport Infrastructure National Company will work together in order to ensure this historical site remains at its location on the site of Route 1."