New Exhibit: 2,000 Year-Old Temple Mount Coins
by Hana Levi Julian
A very special exhibition opens next week in Jerusalem, revealing to the public for the first time all of the ancient coins uncovered in excavations at the foot of the Temple Mount.
The exhibit was organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the East Jerusalem Development Company with funding from the William Davidson and Estanne Fawer Foundation. It is intended to be the first of several exhibitions to be presented at the Davidson Center in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden.
Davidson Center at Jerusalem Archaeological Garden (Israel news photo: Courtesy of IAA)
Among the artifacts to be displayed next week is a rare collection of 2,000-year-old coins that were burnt during the Great Revolt by the Jews against the Roman occupation, in which the Second Holy Temple was destroyed. The Western Wall, which was outside the Temple and not a part of it, is the only remaining part of the immediate area that remained standing following the destruction. The collection includes unique coins that were minted in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period.
Lilly King Yehonatan (Israel news photo: Courtesy of IAA)
One extraordinary find to be presented to the public for the first time is an extremely rare shekel that was minted by the Jewish rebels during the last months of the revolt, in the year 70 CE.
Also on display will be other coins that were found in different excavations in the region and have a wide geographic origin, from Persia, via North Africa and as far away as France. These coins attest to the centrality of Jerusalem for all of the people who visited the city thousands of years ago, while leaving behind a “souvenir” in the area.
It is interesting to note the difference between the Jewish coins and others on display. Contrary to pagan coins, the ruler was not usually depicted on coins of Jewish origin, due to the Jewish prohibition against making a “graven image” or idol. According to an IAA statement, it is for this reason that a variety of symbols of inanimate objects, such as a wreath or scepter and helmet, appear on many Jewish coins.
Aureus Tacitus (Israel news photo: Courtesy of IAA)
Another fascinating artifact to be displayed will be a fragment of a large sarcophagus lid, discovered during excavations conducted along the separation barrier north of Jerusalem with funding provided by the Defense Ministry.
The lid of the sarcophagus, which is meticulously fashioned, is engraved with an inscription in square script that is characteristic of the Second Temple period. It reads: “… Ben HaKohen HaGadol…” (son of the High Priest)
Numerous high priests served in the Holy Temple during the latter part of the Second Temple period, and so there is no way of knowing exactly who this inscription refers to. According to the IAA, however, it is likely the sarcophagus inscription refers to one of the priests who officiated at the Temple between the years 30 CE and 70 CE.