Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Pot of Gold Volume 52 Number 2, March/April 1999
by Spencer P.M. Harrington

A jug containing 751 seventh-century Byzantine gold coins weighing nearly seven pounds--the largest hoard ever scientifically excavated in Israel--has been unearthed in Beth Shean. "The coins are like new. It's just amazing," says Ofer Sion of the Israel Antiquties Authority, who found the hoard buried under the floor of a fourth- to fifth-century villa just outside the city's Byzantine walls. "The villa's owner most certainly hid these coins. He meant to return, but for some reason he didn't."

   Sion, excavating a 200-by-200 foot area of the villa for five months in advance of construction of a youth hostel, also found two mosaics, one depicting a date palm, as well as fine examples of later, early Islamic period blue-black ware and red glazed bowls. The villa, he adds, must have been pleasant, with living areas overlooking groves of date palms and the Jordan River. A family burial on the property, possibly belonging to the villa's owners, bore chrismons identifying the interred as Christians. The coins are being conserved in Jerusalem and eventually will be displayed at the Israel Museum.

© 1999 by the Archaeological Institute of America