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Coins shed light on Christianity in the Holy Land as Dark Ages descend

Archaeologists believe coins were concealed by Christians as Persians invaded in 614 AD

Coins shed light on Christianity in the Holy Land as Dark Ages descend

A cache of nine bronze coins that may have been stashed by terrified Christians fleeing ahead of invading Persian forces has been found in an archaeological dig ahead of roadwork on the highway to Jerusalem.

The coins date from the 7th century C.E., which is the late Byzantine era, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which in June conducted a salvage excavation ahead of widening Highway 1 between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. As isn't rare in Israel, the archaeologists found pay-dirt. In this case they found a large two-story structure and winepress, the IAA says.

Dating the coins was a cinch because they bear the images of the Byzantine emperors Justinian (483-565 AD), Maurice (539-602 CE) and Phocas (547-610 CE). They were struck at three different mints, Constantinople, Antioch, and Nicomedia, all located in today's Turkey. An image of the emperor wearing military garb and carrying crosses is depicted on the obverse of the coins, while the reverse indicates the coin’s denomination.

“The hoard was found amongst large stones that had collapsed alongside the building," says Annette Landes-Nagar, director of the excavation on behalf of the IAA. "It seems that during a time of danger the owner of the hoard placed the coins in a cloth purse that he concealed inside a hidden niche in the wall. He probably hoped to go back and collect it." If so, he didn't.

The archaeologists believe that the coins were concealed by Christians as the Persians invaded in 614 C.E., marking the end of Byzantine rule in the land. The site was abandoned and, over time, disappeared, becoming just another bump in the agricultural terraces characteristic of the region.

This article continues at [Haaretz] 1,400-Year-Old Coins Hidden by Fleeing Christians Found During Roadworks in Israel

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