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7th century gold discovered in Israel

Jerusalem, Sep 13 (): A treasure trove containing 36 gold coins and precious gold and silver jewellery dating back to early seventh century AD has been unearthed near the Temple Mount in Israel.

A third-generation archaeologist at Hebrew University archaeologist, Dr. Eilat Mazar, unveiled the “Ophel Treasure” at Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus campus Monday morning. The collection had 36 gold coins and a large gold medallion which are believed to date back to 614 CE.

The gold artefacts were unearthed approximately 50 meters from the Temple Mount’s southern wall earlier this year, where Ms Eilat Mazar has directed the Ophel excavation since 2009.

The collection has a gold chain with a glittering 10-cm medal on which engraved is a seven-branched menorah, a shofar and a Torah. Mazar said the medallion was likely used to adorn a Torah scroll.

The archaeologist said the treasure was discovered in a ruined Byzantine public structure a mere 50 meters (yards) from the southern wall of the hilltop compound respected by Jews as the Temple Mount where the two biblical Jewish Temples once stood. The site is also considered holy by Muslims who call it the Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary.

Dr Mazar called the discovery “a breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime discovery.” She said the discovery can be dated to the late Byzantine period or early seventh century AD.

When the team discovered, one bundle was carefully hidden underground while the second bundle was actually abandoned in haste and scattered across the floor. From the manner in which the items were found and the date of the items, Dr Mazar estimates they were abandoned in the context of the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 AD.

According to Lior Sandberg, a numismatics specialist at the Institute of Archaeology, the Ophel Treasure is only the third collection of gold coins to be found in archaeological excavations in Jerusalem.