Abigail Klein Leichman
April 5, 2017, Updated April 4, 2017

A cache of nine bronze coins from the end of the Byzantine period (seventh century CE) was discovered in salvage excavations that the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted during preparations for a Netivei Israel construction project to widen Highway 1 near Ein Hemed, about 10 minutes west of Jerusalem.

The excavations exposed a large two-story structure and an adjacent winepress. According to Annette Landes-Nagar, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the hoard was found among large stones that had collapsed alongside the building.

“It seems that during a time of danger the owner of the hoard placed the coins in a cloth purse that he concealed inside a hidden niche in the wall. He probably hoped to go back and collect it, but today we know that he was unable to do so,” she said.

“The historical background to its having been hidden is apparently related to the Sassanid Persian invasion that occurred in 614 CE. This invasion was one of the factors that culminated in the end of Byzantine rule in the Land of Israel.”

Cap: The excavation also exposed this sophisticated winepress. Photo by Yoli Shwartz/IAA

The coins bear the images of three important Byzantine emperors: Justinian (483-565 CE), Maurice (539-602 CE) and Phocas (547-610 CE). An image of the emperor wearing military garb and carrying crosses is depicted on one side of the coins, while the reverse side indicates the coin’s denomination and is usually inscribed with the letter M.

The coins were struck at three different mints — Constantinople, Antioch, and Nicomedia – all located in present-day Turkey.

The building and the winepress beside it are within a larger site extending across Highway 1, which was exposed on the other side of the road about a year ago. A Byzantine church was revealed in that part of the excavation. This site is situated alongside a main road leading from the coastal plain to Jerusalem. Settlements and way stations, some near flowing springs, developed next to the road that was used by Christian pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem.

The site is to be preserved as an historical landmark.

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