Cache of Crusader gold coins discovered in Israel

Archaeologists working in the ruins of the Crusader town of Arsuf have uncovered a cache of more than 100 gold coins, worth more than $100 000. It is believed that the hoard was hidden just before the city was conquered by the Mamluks in 1265.

The dig, being carried out by Tel Aviv University and the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, opened up a thirteenth-century floor in the ruined fortress and found a partly broken vessel. Inside the archaeologists found 108 gold coins, including 93 that weighed four grams each, and 15 that weighed 1 gram each. The coins were minted in Fatimid Egypt approximately 250 years earlier and clearly was part of someone’s family treasure or business investment.

“I think the stash was deliberately buried in a partly broken vessel, which was filled with sand and buried under the floor tiles so if anyone were to discover it, he would simply believe it to be a broken pot, and ignore it.” said Oren Tal, the head of the archaeological team, in interviews with Israeli media.

Also found was large cache of arrowheads – hundreds, in fact – and other weaponry, including stones used in catapults. “The findings indicate a prolonged siege and a harsh battle that took place at the site,” Tal added.

The history of Arsuf dates back to the Phoenicians in the 5th or 6th century BC. In 1101 the town was captured by a Crusader army , who renamed it Arsur. In 1191 it was the site of a battle between Richard I of England and Saladin.

During the thirteenth-century new walls, a larger fortress and a new harbor were built, and from 1261, the city was ruled by the Knights Hospitaller. In 1265 sultan Baybars, ruler of the Mamluks, captured Arsur, after 40 days of siege. The Mamluks razed the city walls and the fortress to their foundations, leaving the site to be abandoned.

Now located within Apollonia National Park, the site has been an archaeologists dream, with other finds including the remains of a Roman villa, a well-preserved market street from the Early Islamic period and a massive gate complex.

See also Crusader inscription by Frederick II discovered in Israel

Sources: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem Post

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