The Israeli Antiquities Authority has announced that a buried treasure of bronze coins were found by archaeologists during a dug along Israel’s Highway 1. These rare coins date to approximately 1,400 year ago and provide evidence of an invasion from nearby Persia near the end of the Byzantine era in the Holy Land.
The nine coins, which have turned verdigris with age, date to the 7th century and bear the images of Byzantine emperors. They were found during an archaeological salvage project in June 2016 while Highway 1 was being widened in the vicinity of Ein Hemed, approximately five miles west of Jerusalem.
The emperors Justinian (483-565 AD), Maurice (539-602 AD), and Phocas (547-610 AD), are depicted on the coins wearing military gear and carrying a cross. The coins were discovered within a cloth bag buried deep in the ground near an ancient wine press, according to Annette Landes-Naggar, who directed the excavation for the Antiquities Authority. “The cache was buried adjacent to an area of collapsed large stones,” she said. “It appears that the owner hid them when there was danger, hoping to return to pick them up. But, now we know he was unable to.”
She added, “Apparently, this was during the time of the Persian Sassanid invasion, around 614 AD,” while noting that the invasion contributed to the demise of Byzantine control of the Holy Land. “Fearing the invasion, residents of the area who felt their lives were in danger buried their money against the wall of a wine press, hoping to return home at the end of the conflict, which did not happen,” Landes-Naggar said.“The site was abandoned and destroyed.”
Landes-Naggar said that the building containing the winepress was part of a larger site that extended across along the route of what is now the modern Highway 1. The building was discovered near what was revealed in 2015 to be a Byzantine church. “This site is situated alongside the main road from the entrance to Jerusalem, and was used by Christian pilgrims to enter the city,” said Landes-Naggar. “Settlements were developed along the road.”
Archaeologist Amit Shadman said the Antiquities Authority and Israel Pipeline Company will preserve the site for the public.
The emperor Justinian waged war with the Sassanid Empire, defeating a Persian army at Dara in 503 AD. However, by the next year, his forces under the general Belisarius were routed near Callinicum. When King Kavadh I of Persia died in 531, Justinian concluded an "Eternal Peace" (which cost him 11,000 pounds of gold) with Kavadh's successor, Khosrau I, in 532. Having secured the East, Justinian turned his attention to the West, where Germanic kingdoms had been established in the territories of the former Western Roman Empire. During his reign, he set upon a building program that included the construction of the largest church in the world: the Hagia Sophia, the "Church of Holy Wisdom," in Constantinople. An outbreak of bubonic plague in the 540s marked the end of the golden age of Byzantium. Justinian ruled from 527 until 565 AD.
Emperor Phocas ruled briefly (602-610 AD). He was the last emperor to erect an imperial monument at the Forum in Rome, which he also ruled. He was not very popular. He overthrew his predecessor, Maurice, who fled to a monastery for refuge along with his six sons. Phocas violated the sanctuary of the monastery and slew the six sons before the eyes of Maurice, who he also executed. Maurice had ruled from 582 until 602 and had been successful in his military campaigns against the Sassanid Persians.