Archaeology mystery: Volunteers baffled by ‘extremely rare’ 1,000-year-old coins

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The young people volunteering in an archaeology dig came across 425 gold coins that had lain buried in a clay jar for 1,100 years. Most of the money unearthed dates back to the early Islamic period. This was when the region was part of the Abbasid caliphate.

Weighing around 845g (30oz) the coins would have been worth a small fortune when they were buried.

They would have equated to the value of a luxurious home in one of the caliphate’s cities.

The mystery of the coins appears not to be in their discovery but in who might have once owned them.

It is unclear why they were never collected.

In a statement, Liat Nadav-Ziv and Elie Haddad of the Israel Antiquities Authority said the owner would undoubtedly have intended to collect their treasure.

They said: “The person who buried this treasure 1,100 years ago must have expected to retrieve it, and even secured the vessel with a nail so that it would not move.

“Finding gold coins, certainly in such a considerable quantity, is extremely rare. We almost never find them in archaeological excavations, given that gold has always been extremely valuable, melted down and reused from generation to generation.”

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The youth who uncovered the gold expressed his unreserved joy at his discovery.

He said: “It was amazing.

“I dug in the ground and when I excavated the soil, saw what looked like very thin leaves.

“When I looked again I saw these were gold coins.”


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Robert Kool, a coin expert, told the BBC the cache consisted of full gold dinars but also 270 small gold cuttings – pieces of dinars cut to serve as “small change”.

He added that one of the cuttings was a fragment of a gold solidus of the Byzantine Emperor Theophilos minted in Constantinople.

This made for a rare instance of evidence linking the deep-rooted rivalry yet strong links between the two rival empires during this period.

The Abbasid period spanned a huge period of history from around 750CE to the Mongol conquest of Baghdad in 1258CE.

It is considered as the period of the Islamic Golden Age.

The Abbasids proved their strength, ruling for over three centuries, and bringing significant cultural and intellectual developments to the area.

The Middle East in this period became a hub of trade, science, philosophy, medicine and education.

The Abbasids championed the cause of knowledge and established the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars sought to translate and gather all the world’s knowledge into Arabic.

The empire began to crumble as it found itself at odds with the Shia muslims as the Abbasids declared their favour of Sunni Islam.

An amalgamation of deteriorating relations with neighbouring empires and worsening finances eventually led to the Abbasids collapse on the rise and invasion of the Mongol Empire.

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