2,500-Year-Old Silver Coin Discovered in Israel

Rare find from the dawn of coinage

rare silver coin

Rare silver coin discovered in the Judean Hills. Courtesy Emil Aladjem, IAA.

During salvage excavations in the Judean Hills, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) uncovered an extremely rare silver coin dating from the sixth or fifth century BCE, around the time that coins first began to circulate. Likely minted in the Aegean, the coin is one of the earliest ever found in Israel.

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An Early Silver Coin

Intentionally cut in half in antiquity, the silver coin was minted with a square stamp embedded into one of its faces. It was only later that techniques were developed to create coins with protruding, double-sided faces. The introduction of coins marked a transition from using weighed pieces of silver as currency to more standardized coin issues. This was a slow process, however, as indicated by the coin being cut in half, which suggests the piece may have been used as traditional weighted measure. According to Robert Kool, Head of the IAA’s Numismatic Department, “The coin is extremely rare, joining only half a dozen coins of its type that have been found in archaeological excavations in the country.”

Aerial photo

Aerial photo of the excavation site. Courtesy Emil Aladjem, IAA.

The coin was discovered during construction work on Israel’s Highway 375 southwest of Jerusalem. Along with the coin, the IAA also uncovered a First Temple-period four-room house, with evidence that the site had been used for commerce in that earlier period as well. Located in a rural area of the Kingdom of Judah that was still relatively close to the capital, the site was first occupied in the seventh century BCE, a time of intense settlement activity in the area. In one of the rooms of the building, the team found a small one-shekel stone weight, weighing around 0.4 ounces. Incised onto the weight was the Egyptian hieratic abbreviation for shekel. “This was, in effect, a standard weight in the region of the Kingdom of Judah, showing that commodities were carefully weighed in the markets,” said the IAA archaeologists in a press release. The small stone would have been used for weighing expensive commodities such as spices or metals.

Shekel weight from the First Temple period. Courtesy Emil Aladjem, IAA.

Related reading in Bible History Daily

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Roman Coins Boast “Judaea Capta”

“Revolt” Coins Minted on Temple Mount

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