An archaeological dig conducted by Hebrew University researchers has uncovered a startling find: a treasure trove of Byzantine gold and silver that included an impressive gold medallion emblazoned with a menorah. The Times of Israel covered the story.
Other items uncovered also featured Jewish symbols and icons, and the find is dated to the brief period of history when Jerusalem was conquered by the Persians. The medallion is believed to have accompanied a Torah scroll as ornamentation, and is also encrusted with an image of a Torah scroll, a ram’s horn, and a shofar. The Torah scroll, in particular, is a unique icon that is rare for artifacts from this period.
The treasure trove included gold bracelets, earrings, a solid silver ingot and a gold-plated hexagonal prism, which sounds really awesome but unfortunately was not pictured. Interestingly, 36 coins marked with Byzantine emperors ranging over 250 years were found in the cache. The Byzantine Empire ruled over most of the known world from Constantinople until Muslims seized the Holy Land and Jerusalem in 634 CE.
Professor Eliat Mazar, bursting with excitement at a press conference, could not help but exclaim that she “[had] never found so much gold in my life!” The professor supposed that the treasure pile was meant to help Jews endure and rebuild a community of their own that would fall under the Persian banner; the archaeological evidence makes Mazar “certain… that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful.”
Mazar has been the primary overseer for the archaeological excavations of the City of David and the lower slope of the Temple Mount, where the treasure was discovered. The Times of Israel reported that her digs have yielded the earliest known artifacts found in Jerusalem, with some finds dating to the 12th century BCE. Those artifacts, according to Mazar, represent physical evidence of the Biblical Kings David and Solomon.
[Image via Ouria Tadmor/Hebrew University]