AMMAN: Archaeologists discovered a trove of gold coins in East Jerusalem over the summer that date back to around 1,100 years ago, it has emerged.
The 4 gold coins, all in good condition, were discovered on Aug. 18, but the find was only publicized on Monday.
“This is the first time we have discovered this kind of treasure in fifty years,” Palestinian Kamil Sari, the head of the northern regional office of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, told Arab News.
“After the archeologists digging near the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem had taken pottery jars for close cleaning and inspection, a volunteer sifting through found the coins.”
Sari said that the coins were made of pure gold, and dated to between 940 and 970 AD. Two were minted in the city of Ramleh, during the Abbasid caliphate period, and the other two were minted in Cairo under the Fatimid dynasty.
The Haifa-based archeological official told Arab News that a month ago more coins from the Islamic period were discovered.
Nazim Al-Jubeh, a Palestinian archeologist and professor of history and archeology at Bir Zeit University, told Arab News: “This was an important discovery because it helps illuminate the Abbasid period which some have tried to dismiss as being a step back in civilization after the successful Byzantine period.”
The era in question represented one of considerable change for the region, as the earlier Abbasid rulers were replaced by the Fatimids.
The discovery, made in occupied East Jerusalem near to Al-Aqsa Mosque, has been described by the Israeli Antiquities Authority as a “rare” find.
The Associated Press (AP) said that the trove, “which was unearthed by youth volunteers, also included hundreds of smaller clippings from gold coins that would have served as smaller denominations.”
AP quoted Robert Kool, a coin expert, who said “an initial analysis indicates the coins date from the late 9th century, considered the golden age of the Abbasid Caliphate that controlled most of the Near East and North Africa.”
Nazmi Al-Jubeh said that archeologists from around the world, including Israel, were slowly changing the narrative about the Abbasid, Umayyad, and Ayyubid Islamic periods.
“Previously archeologists have claimed that, since they had no major monuments representing them, that means that their civilization was nothing to talk about.”
Al-Jubeh said that the latest discovery, plus much of the discoveries of recent years, had caused historians and archeologists to revise their theories.
He said that the coins, found in occupied Palestinian lands, should be returned to Palestine as per international law.
A senior Jordanian source familiar with the situation told Arab news that Palestinians and Jordanians annually submit a report to UNESCO demanding the return of all archeological discoveries taken from the occupied territories in violation of international law.