After nearly 2,140 years, a hoard of silver coins dating to the Hasmonean Period (126 B.C.E.) has once again seen the light of day. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently announced the discovery of the rare Hasmonean coin hoard—hidden in a rock fissure—at the modern Israeli city of Modi’in. Modi’in was where the Maccabees, heroes of Hanukkah’s Maccabean revolt, lived.
IAA dig director Avraham Tendler and his team were conducting excavations ahead of the construction of a new neighborhood when they found the Hasmonean coin hoard within an ancient agricultural estate, according to an IAA press release.
Tendler said, “The cache may have belonged to a Jew who hid his money in the hope of coming back to collect it, but he was unlucky and never did return.”
The face of the silver coins bore images of Seleucid King Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II. Antiochus VII was the last king of the ruling Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty (r. 138–129 B.C.E.).
Modi’in, where the Hasmonean coin hoard was found, was the hometown of the Maccabees. The Maccabees rebelled against the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the 160s B.C.E. and subsequently established the Hasmonean dynasty, which had semi-autonomous rule from the Seleucids over Judea until the Romans conquered the Land of Israel in 63 B.C.E.
“The findings from our excavation show that a Jewish family established an agricultural estate on this hill during the Hasmonean period,” said Tendler. “Dozens of rock-hewn winepresses that reflect the importance of viticulture and the wine industry in the area were exposed in the cultivation plots next to the estate.”
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Tendler said that the excavation also uncovered evidence that the residents who lived on the estate may have been involved in the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans, which erupted in 66 C.E. The project found coins dated to “Year Two” of the revolt and bearing the legend “Freedom of Zion.”
In a fight to gain independence from the Roman Empire, Tendler said, “The inhabitants of the estate filled the living rooms next to the outer wall of the building with large stones, thus creating a fortified barrier.”
The archaeologists found hiding spaces carved in the bedrock beneath the floors of the estate. Additionally, excavation of a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath, in an adjacent area on the estate led to the discovery of extensive hiding spaces littered with artifacts dating to the Bar-Kokhba Revolt against Rome (132–135 C.E.).
“The unique finds revealed in the excavation will be preserved in an archaeological park in the heart of the new neighborhood slated for construction in Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut,” said Tendler.
Eli Baker is an intern at the Biblical Archaeology Society.