Archaeologists have found a rare collection of gold coins dating back more than 900 years in the ancient Israeli port city of Caesarea. Archaeologists believe that whoever buried the treasure could not recover it because he either fled or was massacred in the conquest of the city.
Built Herod the Great between 20 and 11 BC, Caesarea acted as an important port city to several empires including the Roman and Byzantine.
According to the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), the lost treasure– a rare cache of coins and a gold earring–was discovered in a bronze pot hidden away between the stones in a wall.
Archaeologists say the treasure was probably never recovered and that the owner may have died when the city’s inhabitants were massacred by a Crusader army in 1101.
“On the whole, they are very, very rare,” explained Israel Antiquity Authority coin expert Dr. Robert Kool in a conversation with The Times of Israel.
The coins date from the end of the 11th century, and it is possible to link the treasure to the conquest of the city by the Crusaders in 1101, one of the most dramatic events in the medieval history of the city.
“According to contemporary written sources, most of the inhabitants of Caesarea were massacred by the army of Baldwin I (1100–1118), king of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem,” said Peter Gendelman and Mohammed Hatar, the directors of the excavation.
“It is reasonable to assume that the treasure’s owner and his family perished in the massacre or were sold into slavery, and therefore were not able to retrieve their gold.”
Kool explains that the treasure contains coins related to the kingdom of the Byzantine emperor Michael VII Doukas.
“These coins usually did not travel beyond the political borders of the Byzantine Empire.”
Kool explained that “one or two of these gold coins were the equivalent of the annual salary of a simple farmer, so it seems that whoever deposited the cache was at least well-to-do or involved in commerce”.
Interestingly, the latest archaeological discovery was made near the location of two other treasures of the same period – a pot of gold and silver jewelry excavated by experts in the 1960s, as well as a collection of bronze vessels that were found in the 1990s.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars whose goal was the restoration of Christian access to holy places in and near the city of Jerusalem, a sacred city not only for Jews but Christians and Muslims as well.