A hoard of 24 gold coins and a gold earring hidden away more than 900 years ago have been found in the Israeli port city of Caesarea, kick-starting a guessing game as to whose they were and why they were never retrieved.
The stunning collection, which may shed new light on trading links at the time, was found stashed between two stones in the side of a well next to a house dating from the Muslim Caliphate now being unearthed.
Crusaders conquered the city in 1101, leading many to believe that those who squirrelled their possessions away were unable to return to collect them. Historical accounts show most inhabitants were killed in the rout.
“The cache is a silent testimony to one of the most dramatic events in the history of Caesarea,” said Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists Peter Gendelman and Mohammed Hatar, who are leading the dig.
“Someone hid their fortune, hoping to retrieve it, but never returned. It is reasonable to assume that the treasure’s owner and his family perished in the massacre or were sold into slavery.”
Israeli coin experts have said the owners must have been “at least well-to-do” because the hoard would have been a small fortune, since just one of the coins would have been worth the equivalent of a farmer’s yearly salary.
The composition of the collection has also intrigued experts, given that 18 of the coins are dinars minted by the Muslim Fatimid Caliphate and six are extremely rare Byzantine coins minted by the Christian Empire, including five belonging to the reign of Emperor Michael VII Doukas (1071–1079), which points to possible trade routes between Caesarea and Constantinople.
“It is symbolic that the gold coins were discovered on the eve of Chanukah,” said Caesarea Development Corporation chief executive Michael Karsenti. “For us this is certainly Chanukah gelt!’