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Divers Discover Nearly 2,000 Ancient Coins Off Israeli Coast

By Neils Christensen of Kitco News
Wednesday February 18, 2015 10:44 AM

(Kitco News) - A group of divers has recently discovered the largest treasure trove of ancient gold coins in Israel, according to a press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The hoard of about 2,000 coins, which are more than one thousand years old, was found in an ancient habor in the Caesarea National Park. It is believed that the coins were exposed as a result of recent winter storms.

Photo courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority: A treasure of nearly 2,000 ancient gold coins was found off the coast of Israel.

Tzvika Feuer, Kobi Tweena, Avivit Fishler, Yoav Lavi and Yoel Miller are the divers credited by the IAA for discovering the coin collection.  According to the statement from the IAA, the diving group’s first thought was that they had found some toy coins but then quickly realized what they had found.

The diving club then reported the find to the Marine Archaeology Unit of the IAA and using metal detectors, unearthed the rare find holding mint condition coins.

“The coins are in an excellent state of preservation, and despite the fact they were at the bottom of the sea for about a thousand years, they did not require any cleaning or conservation intervention from the metallurgical laboratory,” said Robert Cole, an expert numismaticist with the IAA, in a statement.

Cole added that some of the coins were bent and had teeth marks in them, “evidence they were ‘physically’ inspected by their owners or the merchants.”

The coins varied in denominations from a dinar, half dinar and quarter dinar. According to the IAA, the old coin in the collection is a quarter dinar minted in Palermo, Sicily in the second of the ninth century.
Most of the coins belong to the Fatimid caliphs Al-Ḥākim and his son Al-Ẓāhir, and were minted in Egypt and North Africa between 996 and 1036.

The IAA is now speculating on how the coins ended up at the bottom of the ocean.

“The discovery of such a large hoard of coins that had such tremendous economic power in antiquity raises several possibilities regarding its presence on the seabed,” said Kobi Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit in the statement. “There is probably a shipwreck there of an official treasury boat which was on its way to the central government in Egypt with taxes that had been collected.

“Perhaps the treasure of coins was meant to pay the salaries of the Fatimid military garrison which was stationed in Caesarea and protected the city. Another theory is that the treasure was money belonging to a large merchant ship that traded with the coastal cities and the port on the Mediterranean Sea and sank there.”

The Marine Archaeology Unit is planning to conduct a salvage extraction in the national park in hopes of answering exactly how the coins ended up off the coast of Israel.

By Neils Christensen of Kitco News; nchristensen@kitco.com
Follow Neils Christensen @neils_C



Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in precious metal products, commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.
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