Ancient Coins from the Temple Mount

Ancient Jewish Coins

Rare ancient Jewish coin

A silver “YHD” coin dating to the 4th century BC (credit: Breaking Israel News)

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

Emek Tzurim National Park

Our group at the Emek Tzurim National Park 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

Roman coin

The coin one of our guys found at the Sifting Project

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.”

Emek Tzurim National Park

Close up of the coin found in May!

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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“Menorah Potsherd” Found

Menorah Potsherd

Menorah Potsherd

The observation of the Jewish festival called Hanukkah includes the lighting of candles for 8 consecutive days.  It’s a time of celebrating the miracle of the Temple oil lasting 8 days during a time of crisis in the 2nd century BC. The story is preserved in the book of I Maccabees.  This Jewish holiday alluded to in the Gospels (John 10, mentioned as the Festival of Dedication) just ended.

Recently, a very small pottery sherd with a menorah scratched on it was found in Jerusalem.  While the potsherd found has nothing to do with Hanukkah, the sketching of this 7-branch candelabra on it communicates to us just how important the menorah was in the days of the 2nd Temple period.

Temple Menorah

Temple Menorah

This potsherd was found in the Temple Mount Sifting ProjectThis “sifting project” is an attempt to salvage some of the thousands of tons of ancient debris that was illegally discarded from the Temple Mount by the Wakf Islamic Trust in 1999.  300+ truckloads of this precious debris were dumped into the Kidron Valley over the course of several years.  Spear-headed by Gabriel Barkay and others, these piles of debris were then taken to the Mt. of Olives where it is carefully sifted in hopes of at least finding something significant from the days of both the 1st and 2nd Temple.

In the video below Dr. Barkay, the leading scholar on Jerusalem archaeology, discusses this very interesting find. “Gaby” (as he is referred to even today) was my “Jerusalem Archeology” professor for one year (1981-82) while studying at Jerusalem University College (formerly called the Institute of Holyland Studies).  From an archaeologist’s point of view, he shares much detail about the sherd.  He dates it to the Roman Period, most likely to the Byzantine or Late Roman period (324-640 AD).

While the potsherd is quite small (and could have been easily missed while digging), it sheds light on this Jewish cultural centerpiece.

Here is the video:

To read an article about this find, you will find it HERE in the Jerusalem Post.


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