1,000-year-old Gold Coins Found

Dinars were inside juglet, from the Early Islamic Period, excavated in the Jewish quarter of old Jerusalem

The juglet and the gold coins

The juglet and the gold coins. Photo: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority

Four ancient gold coins were found in 2020 during an excavation in the Old City of Jerusalem. They were from the late 940s to 970s C.E., a time when control of Jerusalem was lost by the Sunni Abbasid caliphate, as the Shia Fatimid dynasty of North Africa expanded its power, including taking control of Egypt and Syria. Two of the coins were gold dinars from Ramla, under the Abbasids. The other two dinars were from Cairo, under Fatimid control.

As Jack Meinhardt explains in “When Crusader Kings Ruled Jerusalem” (Archaeology Odyssey, Sept/Oct 2000), the crusades, a century later, began to take Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks, who didn’t allow Christians to follow pilgrimage routes and walk where Jesus had walked. By the time the European noble and royal families arrived in the Near East, the Fatimids had reconquered the holy city from the Turks. After a two-week siege, they surrendered to the Crusaders without a fight. The next day, the Crusaders massacred the Fatimid Muslims and Jews in the city.

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As announced by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the coins were found by the IAA’s Yevgenia Kapil. As Dr. Kool, the IAA’s coin expert, explains, “Four gold dinars was a considerable sum of money for most of the population, who lived under difficult conditions at the time. It was equal to the monthly salary of a minor official, or four months’ salary for a common laborer.” Though senior officials might earn as much as 7,000 dinars each month, plus potentially hundreds of thousands of dinars each year in income from their land.

Read the Israel Antiquities Authority announcement.

A version of this post first appeared in Bible History Daily in November, 2020

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The Holiest Ground in the World: How the crusaders transformed Jerusalem’s Temple Mount by Warren T. Woodfin. After defeating the army of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem at the Horns of Hattin, west of the sea of Galilee, in 1187, the Egyptian sultan Saladin marched unopposed into Jerusalem. European Crusaders, mostly from the region of present-day France, had occupied the ancient city for almost a century, following 450 years of Arab rule. Saladin’s reclamation of one of Islam’s holiest sites, the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, spurred the Arab historian Imad ad-Din to impressive heights of rhetoric:


The Holy Land in Coins by Yaakov Meshorer. What archaeologists find is important. But what they don’t find can be just as important—such as their failure to find coins anywhere in the world before the end of the 7th century B.C. In the Holy Land, coins are not found until about 100 years later.


Spending Your Way through Jewish History: Ancient Judean Coins Tell Their Story by Sandy Brenner. Coins, ancient and modern, facilitate the flow of commerce. But their usefulness does not end there. Coins are also effective tools of mass communication—to disseminate propaganda. This was especially important in the ancient world, before television or even the printing press. Thanks to this second role, coins also provide considerable historical information. And they are often very beautiful, too. In these pages, we present a series of “firsts” in coins used in Judea—the first Temple tax coin, the first coin used in Judea with a portrait on it, and so on. These examples can serve as an introduction to the world of ancient Jewish coins, including the history they reveal and the important motifs they bear.

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