Researchers working at the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount have made public an astonishing find they made this past summer. While working at the ancient historical site, archaeologists from the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology uncovered numerous rare 7th century gold and silver coins.
This find is part of an ongoing project taking place at the Ophel area of Temple Mount. The treasure was found a few days into the most recent dig and was uncovered in a ruined Byzantine public structure, just 164 feet (50 meters) from the southern wall of Temple Mount.
While all of the find was impressive, there was one piece that stood out amongst the others. Unearthed along with the treasure of 36 gold coins and several pieces of gold and silver jewelry, was a 10-centimeter solid gold medallion. Etched in this gold piece was a menorah and other Jewish iconography, reported the Times of Israel.
According to Tazpit News Agency (courtesy Ynet News), those etchings were of a shofar (ram's horn) and a Torah scroll.
Professor Eilat Mazar, of Hebrew University, describes the find of the Byzantine-era treasures. Mazar has been overseeing excavations at the site since 2005.
"I have never found so much gold in my life!” Dr. Mazar said during a press conference on Mount Scopus on Sept. 9. “I was frozen. It was unexpected."
Mazar believes the medallion was most likely used to adorn a Torah scroll, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“This is the biggest gift we could get for the new year and for Eretz Israel,” said Mazar, who deemed the discovery “one of the most important excavations” in the institute’s 45-year history.
Mazar speculates these treasures were abandoned during the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 CE. Some of the coins were carefully hidden in a bundle, but the others were scattered across the floor and appeared to be left in hurriedness.
"It would appear that the most likely explanation is that the Ophel cache was earmarked as a contribution toward the building of a new synagogue, at a location that is near the Temple Mount," said Dr. Mazar. "What is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful. The treasure was abandoned, and its owners could never return to collect it."
Lior Sandberg, who is a numismatics specialist at the Institute of Archeology, said the 36 gold coins were able to be dated to different reigns of Byzantine emperors-from 4th century CE to early 7th century CE.
This is not the only remarkable find Mazar and her team have found during these excavations that took place between April and July 2013. In July, it was reported the team found evidence of the earliest known alphabetical written text in Jerusalem on a fragment of a ceramic jar. Reported as Canaanite inscription, according to Ynet, it was recently identified as Hebrew.
Mazar has also led excavations taking place at the City of David’s summit.
A detailed interview with Mazar has been published in The Trumpet which provides further detail of this amazing discovery.