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Potter's 'piggy bank' contains Caliph Harun's 1,200-year-old money, and it's still good though his regime is long gone

Section: Daily Dispatches

Trove of 1,200-Year-Old 'Arabian Nights' Gold Coins Uncovered in Israel

By Rossella Tercatin
Jerusalem Post, Israel
Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Hanukkah present straight from the legendary One Thousand and One Nights has brightened the holiday of a group of Israeli archaeologists.

The Antiquities Authority announced today that a juglet full of rare 1,200-year-old gold coins was discovered in an excavation in Yavne just before the festival. The site is being excavated by the authority prior to the building of a new neighborhood in the city.

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"I was in the middle of cataloging a large number of artifacts we found during the excavations when all of a sudden I heard shouts of joy," Liat Nadav-Ziv, codirector of the excavation said on behalf of the authority. "I ran toward the shouting and saw Marc Molkondov, a veteran archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, approaching me excitedly. We quickly followed him to the field where we were surprised at the sight of the treasure. This is without a doubt a unique and exciting find, especially during the Hanukkah holiday."

“I ran toward the shouting and saw Marc Molkondov, a veteran archaeologist of the authority approaching me excitedly. We quickly followed him to the field, where we were surprised at the sight of the treasure. This is without a doubt a unique and exciting find especially during the Hanukkah holiday," she added.

As revealed by authority coin expert Robert Kool, the coins date back to the early Abbasid Period, 9th century CE. The period marked the beginning of a golden age for the Muslim empire, with the Abbasid rulers acquiring international status and promoting art, science, commerce, and industry. According to Kool, among the coins was a dinar from the reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid (786-809 CE) --

-- whose court was the setting of many parts of the renowned One Thousand and One Nights, also known as Arabian Nights.

"The hoard also includes coins that are rarely found in Israel," Kool said. "These are gold dinars issued by the Aghlabid dynasty that ruled in North Africa, in the region of modern Tunisia, on behalf of the Abbasid Caliphate centered in Baghdad," he added. "Without a doubt this is a wonderful Hanukkah present for us."

Archaeologists excavating the site also found a large amount of pottery kilns used to produce jars, pots, and bowls. The juglet containing the gold coins was uncovered nearby, and the experts suggested it might have been the potter's "piggy bank," where he had kept his personal savings. The kilns date back to the end of the Byzantine and beginning of the Early Islamic period (7th–9th centuries CE).

Even older artifacts were revealed in the region. According to the authority, a large wine-production installation dating back to the Persian Period (4th–5th centuries) was uncovered in a different area of the excavation. Co-director of the excavation Elie Haddad explained that an "initial analysis of the contents of the installation revealed ancient grape pips," or seeds. Hadded added, "The size and number of vats found at the site indicated that wine was produced on a commercial scale, well beyond the local needs of Yavne's ancient inhabitants."

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