1,600 year-old coin found in Galilee is first of its kind discovered in Israel

Alongside the Sanhedrin Trail in Galilee, four high school students discovered a single gold coin minted 1,600 years ago by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II. According to Dr. Gabriela Bijovsky, a numismatic expert for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) “The gold coin is a solidus minted by the emperor Theodosius II in Constantinople (now Istanbul) around 420–423 CE.” On one side of the coin is an image of Theodosius II, and on the other is  the goddess Victory holding the Staff of the Cross. Dr. Bijovsky says “Similar coins are known from the Eastern Byzantine empire, but this is the first of its type discovered in Israel.”

Theodosius II was one of the most influential emperors of the Byzantine Empire, putting in place an Imperial Code of Laws, designated the ‘Codex Theodosius.’ According to Yair Amitzur, the IAA’s chief archaeologist of the Sanhedrin Trail, “Theodosius II abolished the post of the ‘Nasi,’ the Head of the Sanhedrin Council, and decreed that the Jews’ financial contributions to the Sanhedrin be transferred to the Imperial Treasury.” Amitzur continues, “The Sanhedrin Trail initiated by the IAA, tells the story of the Jewish leadership in the Galilee at the time of the Mishna and the Talmud in the Roman and Byzantine periods. It is symbolic that the gold coin discovered adjacent to the Sanhedrin trail reflects the period of dramatic events when the Sanhedrin ceased to function in the Galilee, and the centre of Jewish life transferred from the Galilee to Babylon.”  

The coin was discovered by Ido Kadosh, Ofir Sigal, Dotan Miller and Harel Grin, four students from the Haemeq Hamaaravi High School in Kibbutz Yifat in the Jezreel valley. The students were orienteering in the fields alongside the Zippori stream in the Galilee, adjacent to the trail. When they spotted a gold coin lying on the ground, the pupils informed their their geography and history teacher Zohar Porshyan who contacted the IAA. 

The Haemeq Hamaaravi high school pupils who found the gold coin.  Photo: Courtesy of the IAA

The Haemeq Hamaaravi high school pupils who found the gold coin. Photo: Courtesy of the IAA

When IAA Inspector Nir Distelfeld arrived at the site the students handed him the coin and showed him where they had located it. “It is uncommon to find single gold coins” Distelfeld says, “as they were very valuable, and people took care not to lose them.” The boys were commended for reporting the rare find, and awarded with a Certificate of Good Citizenship.

The Haemeq Hamaaravi high school pupils who found the gold coin.  Photo: Courtesy of the IAA

The Haemeq Hamaaravi high school pupils who found the gold coin. Photo: Courtesy of the IAA

Abby VanderHart, FIAA Contributor

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