The Israel Antiquities Authority said on Tuesday that a 2,000-year-old silver half-shekel with the Hebrew inscription “Holy Jerusalem” had been found in the Judean desert.
The rare coin, which belonged to the first Jewish uprising against the Romans and was dated to 66–67 C.E., was found at the entrance to a cave close to Ein Gedi. The discovery was made as part of a cave survey operation that the IAA is in charge of, in collaboration with the Israeli Heritage Ministry and an archaeology staff member of the Civil Administration, and that is now in its sixth year.
IAA inspectors recently discovered the coin poking out of the ground at the entrance to one of the cliffside caves while conducting an inspection along a length of cliff along one of the streams in the Ein Gedi region.
A coin from the first year of the insurrection has an inscription engraved on it in unvowelized Hebrew, according to Yaniv David Levy, a researcher in the IAA’s Coin Department.
‘Holy Jerusalem’ is written in plene spelling (where letters that are often removed are present) in the later years of the insurrection, which may be evidence of the process of creating inscriptions.
Additionally, he pointed out that the Ein Gedi coin’s central design has three pomegranates, which were “a familiar symbol on the Israeli pound, used by the State of Israel until 1980.
The other side displays a goblet with the words “Hatzi Shekel” [half] and the Hebrew letter alef, which denotes the first year of the insurrection, etched above it.
The goblet was a frequent design element on Jewish coins from the late Second Temple era. During the first revolt against the Romans, which took place in the Land of Israel between 66 and 70 C.E., these coins were struck in the denominations of “shekel” and “half shekel.
The Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed as a result of this uprising. It’s interesting to note that Jews carved plant-based symbols on their coins in addition to designs derived from sacred things, in defiance of the scriptural prohibition “Thou shalt not make for thee a graven image.” In contrast, the pagans portrayed images of their kings and animals on their coins.
“The exciting discovery brings further evidence of the deep and indisputable ties between the Jewish people and Jerusalem and the Land of Israel,” Heritage Minister Rabbi Amihai Eliyahu said. Eli Escusido, director of the IAA, continued, “The coin provides direct and striking evidence of the Jewish struggle against the Romans—a volatile moment in the lives of our people from two thousand years ago, during which fanaticism and dissension divided the people and resulted in destruction.
Despite the fact that we have returned to this location after 2,000 years of absence and that Jerusalem is once again our capital, the conflicts persist. Finding this coin serves as a reminder of our shared history and the need for consensus.