Archaeologists seek out the treasures of the past, but rarely do they come across literal pots of gold. Tel Aviv University and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority excavations at Arsuf uncovered a spectacular cache of over 100 gold dinals deliberately buried by the Knights Hospitaller in the 13th century C.E. A fortune in the thirteenth century, the Fatimid coins are worth up to $500,000 today.
Called Apollonia in Greco-Roman times, the seventh century C.E. Muslim conquest restored the site’s original Semitic name, Arsuf. The crusaders occupied the site they called Arsur at the start of the 12th century C.E., and were driven out by the Mamluk army in 1265. The coins were discovered in a pot in a Roman fortress, buried by the Crusaders and filled with sand to disguise the contents from the invading Mamluks. The coins predate the Crusader occupation by several centuries, and were originally minted by the Fatimid Empire in northern Africa.
What Were the Crusades and How Did They Impact Jerusalem? Read the full article “When Crusader Kings Ruled Jerusalem” by Jack Meinhardt online in Bible History Daily as it originally appeared in Archaeology Odyssey.
The Crusaders built extensively at Arsur, and the subsequent abandonment of the site after the Mamluk invasion leaves a relatively clear picture of the Crusader city and its destruction. The coins would haev already been viewed as foreign, antiquated treasure by the 13th century, and, along with the large-scale architectural projects undertaken at Arsur, attest to the wealth and power of the Crusader occupation.
Interested in ancient hoards? Textual records and lead isotope analysis on Iron Age silver hoards suggest that the island of Sardinia may be Biblical Tarshish, the source of Solomon’s silver.