Ancient Jewish Coins

Widow’s mites

It is fun to find things from the ancient past. At virtually every archaeological site we visit on each study tour we lead, one can easily find a piece of potsherd from the past. Broken pottery is plentiful at every site. Coming in all kinds of shapes and colors (reddish to brownish to tannish primarily), pottery is actually what helps the archaeologist date stone architectural structures or walls. The finding of ancient coins can do the same. And while it is much more rare to find a coin than a piece of pottery, there have been to date thousands of coins found all over Israel.

Temple Mount Sifting Project


Our group at the sifting project

Occasionally on our Israel trips, we schedule a two hour slot with the Temple Mount Sifting Project. To give you a little background to this Sifting Project, it was in 1999 when the Islamic Waqf began to carelessly dig on the Temple Mount. The goal of the Waqf was to build an underground mosque on the southeast corner of the Temple Mount. This led to the removal of about 400 dump-truck fills of Temple Mount dirt and debris over about a week’s time. The dump-trucks unloaded this dirt primarily in the Kidron Valley. Understanding that this dirt should have been carefully archaeologically excavated with brushes, Gaby Barkay (a leading Jerusalem archaeologist) co-founded a rescue effort of this dirt and debris. These piles of dirt were brought to the northern end of the Mt. of Olives. These piles were then carefully sifted through. Today in the Emek Tzurim National Park, the sifting of Temple Mount dirt and debris still takes place.

To date, this Sifting Project has recovered items from both the 1st and 2nd Temple periods. While groups (like ours) typically find pottery, mosaics, bones, special stones, beads, and even tiles, coins have been also found. According to Zachi Dvira, co-director of the Project, about 6,000 coins have been found.

The “YHD” Coin

The “YHD” coin (credit: Israel Museum)

However, just recently (about a year ago I understand), a few exceptionally rare coins have been found at the Sifting Project (one pictured above). These five coins found are some of the first coins minted by Jews. According to the article, “The newly-discovered coins bear the letters ‘YHD,’ or Yehud, the Aramaic name for the biblical kingdom of Judea, and are dated to the end of the 4th century BCE.” Dvira states, “What makes the discovery of these coins so remarkable is that only five other coins of this kind have been found in the 150 years of archaeological digging in ancient Jerusalem sites.”

The one we found at the Sifting Project

Now when our group when to the Sifting Project about two weeks ago now, two guys in our group found coins! While they still have to be carefully cleaned and analyzed, it will be interesting to hear what coins they were. At first guess, the experts on site suggested they were both Roman coins. But stay tuned!



Here is the entire article on recent ancient coins discovered in the sifting of Temple Mount debris:

Rare Jewish Coins Found at the Temple Mount Excavations.

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