Crusader era coin hoard unearthed

25 January 2019

Discovered Coin Hoard in Caesarea tells a story from the Age of Crusades

January 24, 2019 – A rare and important treasure, a small bronze pot holding 24 gold coins and a gold earring, was uncovered at the Caesarea National Park. It was found during the NIS 150 million excavation and conservation project at the site, sponsored by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation, in cooperation with the Caesarea Development Corporation, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The gold cache was found hidden between two stones in the side of a well, located in a house in a neighbourhood dating to the Abbasid and Fatimid periods, some 900 years ago.

Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority elaborated, “The cache is a silent testimony to one of the most dramatic events in the history of Caesarea – the violent conquest of the city by the Crusaders. Someone hid their fortune, hoping to retrieve it – but never returned.”

According to the directors of the excavation, Dr. Peter Gendelman and Mohammed Hatar of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The coins in the cache dating to the end of the eleventh century, make it possible to link the treasure to the Crusader conquest of the city in the year 1101, one of the most dramatic events in the medieval history of the city. According to contemporary written sources, most of the inhabitants of Caesarea were massacred by the army of Baldwin I (1100-1118), king of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. It is reasonable to assume that the treasure’s owner and his family perished in the massacre or were sold into slavery, and therefore were not able to retrieve their gold.”

This important discovery was found close to the location of two other treasures of the same period. The first, a pot consisting of gold and silver jewelry, was discovered in the 1960s. The second, a collection of bronze vessels, was found in the 1990s. These treasures are currently displayed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

At the center of the excavation and conservation activity of the multi-year Caesarea project, stands the impressive façade of the city’s ancient central public building. It was part of a sacred compound first built by Herod more than two millennia ago, as a tribute to his Roman patron, the emperor Augustus, and the goddess Roma. The newly discovered treasure was found in this area. The well where the treasure was found was part of a house within the Fatimid and Abbasid neighbourhoods, built some 1,000 years after Herod's reign, below the western façade of the Herodian temple. These neighbourhoods also extended to parts of the inner harbour of the Caesarea port, which had already silted up by that time.

According to Dr. Robert Kool, coin expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The cache is of a unique combination of coins not yet seen in Israel consisting of two types of coins: 18 Fatimid dinars, well known from previous excavations in Caesarea where it was the standard local currency of the time; and a small and extremely rare group of six Byzantine imperial gold coins. Five of the coins are concave and belong to the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Doukas (1071-1079). These coins did not circulate locally, and hint at contacts, possible trade relations between Caesarea and Constantinople during the period. One or two of these gold coins were the equivalent of the annual salary of a simple farmer, so it seems that whoever deposited the cache was at least well-to-do or involved in commerce.”