The Israeli Nature and Parks Authority announced that a team of archeologists unearthed a trove of rare bronze coins on Monday dating from the last years of the Roman-Jewish War (66-73 C.E.) in a cave near the south wall of the Temple Mount.
The discovery was part of the Ophel excavation operated by acclaimed Israeli archeologist Eilat Mazar of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Included were dozens of bronze coins, as well as numerous fragments of pottery vessels from the difficult four-year rebellion of the Jews of Israel against Roman rule, known as the Great Revolt.
Mazar’s team believes that the coins were left by hidden Jewish residents of Second Temple Jerusalem, who sought refuge from the Roman siege in a cave that measures 7 x 14 meters.
The coins were dated to the period just prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, years 66-70 C.E., with most of them dating to the revolt’s final year, or Year Four. Whereas coins in the earlier part of the revolt were decorated with Jewish symbols and bore the paleo-Hebrew words “For the Freedom of Zion,” the coins minted in Year Four, as the revolt began to break down, were etched with “For the Redemption of Zion.”
“A discovery like this—ancient coins bearing the words “Freedom” and “Redemption” found right before the Jewish Festival of Freedom, Passover begins—is incredibly moving,” said Mazar in a statement.
According to Mazar, the cave was virtually untouched since the Second Temple period—a very unusual occurrence in archaeology—and also contains a Hasmonean Period layer beneath.
In February, the Ophel excavation garnered international attention for uncovering a 2,700-year-old seal that may have belonged to the biblical Prophet Isaiah.
Approximately 50 years ago, after the 1967 Six-Day War, Mazar’s grandfather, Professor Benjamin Mazar, discovered another hoard of Year Four coins at excavations near the Robinson’s Arch adjacent to the Western Wall.