Ophel Treasure Goes on Display at the Israel Museum

Bible and archaeology news


The gold medallion from the Ophel treasure was featured on the cover of the September/October 2014 issue of BAR. Medallion: Ouria Tadmore, © Eilat Mazar.

Last summer, a team of Hebrew University archaeologists led by Dr. Eilat Mazar excavating at the southern wall of the Temple Mount made a dazzling discovery: They unearthed a trove of gold coins, gold and silver jewelry and a gold medallion featuring sacred Jewish motifs (pictured right). The Byzantine-period hoard, from the excavation at the Ophel (the area between the foot of the Temple Mount and the City of David), is now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The date of the treasure and the context in which it was discovered inside an early seventh-century building led Mazar to believe the hoard was abandoned during the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 C.E. While one bundle of the treasure was hidden underground, the contents of the other bundle were scattered on the floor of the building—time had apparently run out.

The four-inch gold medallion, the prize find of the so-called Ophel treasure, features a menorah, shofar (ram’s horn) and what Mazar interprets to be a Torah scroll. David Mevorach, senior curator of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine collection at the Israel Museum, told The Times of Israel that the Torah scroll was typically depicted horizontally, not vertically, as seen on the Ophel medallion. Mevorach believes what’s depicted under the right side of the menorah is, actually, a bundle of myrtle, willow and palm branches. These plants are three of the four species mentioned in the Torah that are bound together during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and collectively known as the lulav.

While the iconography of the medallion continues to be debated, what remains clear is that the Ophel treasure is an exceptional discovery—indeed, only two other caches of gold coins have thus far been found in Jerusalem.

Read more about the exhibition of the Ophel treasure in The Times of Israel.

Jerusalem lies at the heart of Biblical archaeology. In the free eBook Jerusalem Archaeology: Exposing the Biblical City, learn about the latest finds in the Biblical world’s most vibrant city.

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Ophel Treasure

Precursor to Paleo-Hebrew Script Discovered in Jerusalem

King Hezekiah in the Bible: Royal Seal of Hezekiah Comes to Light

Discovering the Solomonic Wall in Jerusalem: A Remarkable Archaeological Adventure

Video: Inside the 2012 Ophel Excavations

Did I Find King David’s Palace? by Eilat Mazar
As published in the January/February 2006 issue of BAR


Posted in News, Jerusalem.

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  • Gary says

    Look at it quickly, look away. It is a Torah scroll.

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