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Two Rare Coins Discovered

Two Rare Coins Discovered at the Emek Tzurim National Park
Temple Mount Sifting Operation

A silver half shekel coin and a coin minted by the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanus IV were discovered recently in the Temple Mount Sifting Operation at the Emek Tzurim National Park. Now in its fourth year, the sifting operation which is funded by the Ir David Foundation, takes place under the direction of Prof. Gabriel Barkay of Bar Ilan University and Archaeologist Tzachi Zweig.

A silver half-shekel coin that was minted in the first year of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66/67 CE was discovered recently at the Emek Tzurim National Park in Jerusalem. On one side of the coin, a branch with three pomegranates is visible with the inscription “Holy Jerusalem.” The other side of the coin bears a chalice from the First Temple and says “Half Shekel.” These coins were used to pay an annual Temple tax, and during the days of the Great Revolt, they replaced the Tyrian Shekels. Silver half-shekels like the one discovered at Emek Tzurim appear to have been minted on the Temple Mount itself by the Temple authorities. The Temple tax has its basis in Exodus (30:11-15) in which every Jew was required to pay half a shekel per year to the Temple. Though the coin is in excellent condition, it does have signs of having been damaged by fire, most likely the fires that destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE. This is the first time that such a coin has been discovered in rubble that comes from the Temple Mount itself. Similar coins have been discovered at various locations throughout Jerusalem, in the Old City, and even at Masada, but they are still considered or the rarest of finds in Jerusalem archaeology. This silver half-shekel coin was discovered by a 14 year old volunteer from Neve Daniel named Omer Yaari.

An additional coin was discovered in the Temple Mount Sifting Operation – one minted by the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphans IV of the Chanukah story. He ruled from 175-163 BCE during which time he looted the Temple of its treasures and erected a statute in the sanctuary. The Hasmonean rebellion was directed against his actions. The coin depicts a portrait of Antiochus IV. The Hasmonean rebellion, their liberation of the Temple, and the events surround the Chanukah story took place on the Temple Mount itself. This is the first coin of its kind that has been discovered, in near perfect condition, in rubble that comes from the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount Sifting Operation
In November 1999, illegal construction and excavation work took place on the Temple Mount, causing irreparable damage to the area’s archaeological treasures. This is part of a larger trend of illegal work carried out by the Wakf (the religious body in charge of Moslem holy sites) to “revise” history and to eradicate the remains of Jewish history on the Mount. The rubble from this illegal work was removed by bulldozers and trucks and discarded in the Kidron Valley. Though these remains are no longer in their original context, they contain important archaeological material. Today, this rubble is being sifted on a daily basis at the Emek Tzurim National Park as part of the Teple Mount Sifting Operation. Over 40,000 volunteers have participated in this incredible project. Sifting operations at the Emek Tzurim Park have resulted in finds of over 3,500 ancient coins that range from the Persian Period to the Ottoman Period.

For more information: Gabriel Barkay 972-2-672-4935