IAA claims silver coins linked to early Jewish history
In the second century BCE, the Maccabees waged a fierce war against Antiochus IV and the Seleucid Kingdom. Now, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) believes a hoard of 15 silver coins may offer new evidence of the conflict. According to the IAA, the coins were likely left by a Judean fleeing the harsh decrees of Antiochus IV, as described in the book of 1 Maccabees.
Discovered in the Muraba’at Cave in the Judean Desert of the West Bank, the coins were found stashed inside a lathe-worked, wooden container that was hidden within a crack in the cave. The coins were placed in the bottom of the container and covered with a cloth and a layer of packed earth.
The hoard consisted of 15 silver tetradrachma minted under King Ptolemy VI, who reigned in Egypt during the same time that his uncle, Antiochus IV, reigned over the Seleucid Kingdom. The Seleucids controlled much of the Near East and Central Asia, including Judea, at this time. The coins date from 176 to 170 BCE and weigh around 0.5 ounces each. Together, they would have been the equivalent of several months’ salary.
Hidden deep in the cave, the coins likely were left behind by someone on the run, who was never able to return to retrieve their treasure. Since the coins date to about ten years before the Maccabean Revolt, the IAA made the intriguing suggestion that the coins may provide evidence for the Jewish rebels and fugitives who used the Judean Desert caves prior to and during the revolt.
According to the IAA, the hoard may have been left by someone fleeing Antiochus IV’s religious decrees of 167 BCE, or the plundering of the Jerusalem Temple and the destruction of the city’s walls in that year. Such an interpretation is suggested by 1 Maccabees 2:29–37, which mentions Judeans who fled to the Judean Desert caves to escape religious persecution at the hands of the Seleucids.
“It is interesting to try to visualize the person who fled to the cave and hid his personal property here intending to return to collect it,” said Eitan Klein of the IAA. “He did not return to collect his possessions that awaited almost 2,200 years until we retrieved it.”
However, the IAA’s interpretation is not the only explanation for how the coins could have ended up in the cave. As Benedikt Eckhardt of the University of Edinburgh told NBC News, the hoard clearly belonged to a refugee. However, “it doesn’t indicate to me that these are people fleeing because of persecution. It would rather indicate to me that these might be people who are connected to the earlier Ptolymaic structure and were deposed or otherwise fell out of favor with the Seleucids. And that would have possibly been before the revolt.”
But regardless of who hid the coins and why, the hoard is certainly an intriguing find that sparks the imagination and leaves much room for further inquiry and interpretation.
Ed. Note: Articles on Bible History Daily may reference sites or artifacts from contested, annexed, or occupied regions, which may be subject to international laws and conventions on the protection of cultural property.
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