A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
A cache of 11 gold ornaments intended to decorate a leather belt or scabbard has been found under a stone-paved floor in a domestic quarter of Caesarea, Israel. Archaeologists with the Combined Caesarea Expeditions, led by Haifa University and the University of Maryland, are interpreting the find as a reminder of the wealth of the city, a prosperous entry point for Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land during the Late Roman and early Byzantine era (A.D. 324-640).
The fill in which the gold pieces were discovered suggests they were dumped under the floor rather than being intentionally buried. Six of the pieces are decorated with a distinctly European interlace pattern. Two others form a buckle whose catch plate is incised with stylized bird heads and whose clasp bears a monogram of the Greek name Stephanos. The name was common during the Late Roman era, although it is tempting to associate it and therefore the gold find with either of the two governors of that name who served in Caesarea in the late sixth and early seventh centuries A.D. The governors' dates are compatible with both the style of the decoration on the gold and the form of the monogram.
The Late Roman era at Caesarea ended with the Arab conquest in A.D. 640, and perhaps the gold was lost then.