Hidden hoard of Byzantine gold coins discovered in Golan Heights

A hoard of 44 gold coins dating to the seventh century has been discovered in the ruins of Banias in the Golan Heights. They were found during archaeological excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The coins, which were minted during the reigns of emperors Phocas (602–610 CE) and Heraclius (610–641 CE), seem to have been hidden in a wall around the time of the Arabic conquests in this region in the 630s.


“The coin hoard, weighing about 170 grams, was concealed within the base of an ashlar stone wall at the time of the Muslim conquest,” explains Dr. Yoav Lerer, Director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “The discovery reflects a specific moment in time, when we can imagine the owner concealing his fortune in the threat of war, hoping to return one day to retrieve his property. In retrospect, we know that he was less fortunate. The discovery of the coin hoard may also shed light on the economy of the city of Banias during the last 40 years of Byzantine rule.”

Coin of Emperor Heraclius. Photo by Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

Dr. Gabriela Bijovsky, a numismatic expert also with the Israel Antiquities Authority, examined the hoard. He notes that “most of the coins are of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, and what is particularly interesting is that in his early years as emperor, only his portrait was depicted on the coin, whereas after a short time, the images of his sons also appear. One can actually follow his sons growing up – from childhood until their image appears the same size as their father, who is depicted with a long beard.”


The excavation, which took place in the northwestern residential quarter of Banias, found the remains of buildings, water channels and pipes, a pottery kiln, bronze coins, and fragments of many pottery, glass, and metal artifacts. The finds date to the end of the Byzantine period (early seventh century CE), and to the High Middle Ages (11th–13th centuries).

Banias has a long history and today remains a place of contention. Its ancient roots include being a cultic site to the god Pan, and it was rebuilt by the Romans and renamed Caesarea Philippi. According to Christian tradition, Banias gained fame as the place where the Apostle Peter proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, and Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. In the Byzantine period, a church was built next to the spring. During the twelfth century the city traded hands on several occasions between various Crusader and Arabic forces.

On the coin one can see an image of the emperor Heraclius and his son. Photo by Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

Banias was part of Syria and the home to a few hundred people until 1967, when the Six Day War took place and the Golan Heights was conquered by Israel. The residents fled and most of the village was bulldozed. The site is now within the Hermon Stream Nature Reserve administered by Israel’s National Parks Authority. Golan Heights itself remains a disputed land, with both Syria and Israel laying claim to it.

“The coin hoard is an extremely significant archaeological find as it dates to an important transitional period in the history of the city of Banias and the entire region of the Levant,” says Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “The Israel Antiquities Authority, together with the National Parks Authority, will work together to exhibit the treasure to the public.”

Exposing a water fountain, near the place where the hoard of gold coins was found. Photo by Yoav Lerer, Israel Antiquities Authority

Top Image: Photo by Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority