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900-year-old treasure hoard discovered in Caesarea

The Israeli Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of a medieval treasure hoard, consisting of a small bronze pot holding 24 gold coins and a gold earring. The items were recently discovered on a site at Caesarea National Park, hidden between two stones in the side of a well, located in a house in a neighbourhood dating to the Fatimid period, some 900 years ago.

“The coins in the cache dating to the end of the eleventh century, make it possible to link the treasure to the Crusader conquest of the city in the year 1101, one of the most dramatic events in the medieval history of the city,” said Dr. Peter Gendelman and Mohammed Hatar of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the directors of the excavation. “According to contemporary written sources, most of the inhabitants of Caesarea were massacred by the army of Baldwin I (1100–1118), king of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. It is reasonable to assume that the treasure’s owner and his family perished in the massacre or were sold into slavery, and therefore were not able to retrieve their gold.”

The bronze pot, gold earring and coins. Photo: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Caesarea Development Corporation.

The coins discovered include 18 Fatimid dinars, and six Byzantine gold coins. Dr. Robert Kool, coin expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority, noted that “five of the coins are concave and belong to the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Doukas (1071–1079). These coins did not circulate locally, and hint at contacts, possible trade relations between Caesarea and Constantinople during the period. One or two of these gold coins were the equivalent of the annual salary of a simple farmer, so it seems that whoever deposited the cache was at least well-to-do or involved in commerce.”

This important discovery was found close to the location of two other treasures of the same period. The first, a pot consisting of gold and silver jewelry, was discovered in the 1960s. The second, a collection of bronze vessels, was found in the 1990s. Caesarea National Park is home to ruins dating back to the Roman era, and there is currently a multi-year archaeological project taking place here.

Israel Hasson, the director of Israel Antiquities Authority, added that “since its founding 2,030 years ago, and throughput the periods which followed, Caesarea has been a vibrant port city. Its significance and architectural wealth have made it one of the most important cities of the Roman and Byzantine empires. The archaeological excavations carried out at the site on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which continue decades of earlier excavations, reveal many remains from the time of Herod until the Crusader period. In addition to the vast excavations at Caesarea National Park, the port is undergoing extensive conservation, restoration and development activities. The project is indeed one of the largest and most important conservation projects in Israel to date.”

The bronze pot with gold earring inside. Photo: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Caesarea Development Corporation.

Top Image: Convex-shaped gold coin “nomisma histamenon” of the Byzantine emperor Michael VII Doukas (1071 – 1079 CE). Photo: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Caesarea Development Corporation.

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