Coins we’ve discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa are the oldest yet found in Israel. Some of them are the first known coins actually minted in the Land.
Most attention for Khirbet Qeiyafa focuses on the 10th century B.C. city, but another city was built on the site 7 centuries later in the time of Alexander the Great. On site we simply refer to it as the “Hellenistic Layer.” To my knowledge no one has yet published an identification for the Hellenistic city.
Yoav Fahi, one of our staff members, recently announced these numismatic (coin) discoveries at an Archaeological Congress at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Some highlights:
“Coins that were minted in the Land are very rare. All are made of silver and generally are very very small – with a diameter of about 7 mm. and a weight of less than half a gram. …Because they are so small they are hardly ever found in organized excavations.”
“These are the first coins ever minted in the Land. Before then no coins were minted here.”
… A coin from the time of Alexander the Great is the rarest of the coins – one of a kind in the world – a silver covered bronze coin upon which is depicted the figure of a sphinx that was apparently brought from Cyprus.
… Of the earliest and smallest coins struck in Jerusalem is a coin displaying on the obverse the head of the goddess Athena and on the reverse a raptor from the owl family, this time accompanied by the inscription “Yehud”, the name of the province of Judea under Persian rule.
… Another coin that was found at the site is from the time of Alexander the Great – also a silver tetradrachma. On one side is seen a head, apparently Alexander’s head, and on the second side the god Zeus seated on a throne. These are relatively large coins, around 25 mm. in diameter.
Yoav points out that the “pieces of silver” and shekels used in the time of Abraham, Moses, et al. in the Bible were not minted coins. The first minted coinage came out of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the 7th century B.C. The earliest coins at Qeiyafa date to the 4th century B.C.
Read the full article here. (Thanks to Jim West.) The article has photos of some of these coins.
Khirbet Qeiyafa is a great place to dig! News from Qeiyafa typically focuses on the Iron Age city from ca. 1000 B.C. (with discoveries that reshape our understanding of that time), but the Hellenistic layer has its own surprises. One perk of working at Qeiyafa, or any site for that matter, is getting to see (even discover) finds like these coins before anyone else learns of them.
Maybe you should start thinking ahead to the summer of 2012. Want to come to Qeiyafa with me and discover something?
Happy Easter Luke!