An Israeli hiker has found a rare coin from Ancient Roman times whilst hiking in northern Israel, Discovery News has reported. The gold coin is 2,000-years-old and dates back to 107 AD, with one side bearing the image of the emperor Augustus (the founder of the Roman empire) whilst the other displays the Roman legions with the name of the ruler Trajan.
According to the Israeli Antiquities Authority, there is only one other such coin known to man, and this is currently on display at the British Museum in London.
The incredibly rare coin was found by Laurie Rimon, who was hiking with friends in the eastern Galilee region when they arrived at an archaeological site. Here, the hiker saw something shiny in the grass, and she soon was shocked to discover that she had stumbled upon an ancient gold coin. Understanding the importance of such a rare discovery, Rimon and her hiker friends immediately contacted the Israeli Antiquities Authority.
The IAA sent out Danny Syon to the scene, a senior numismatist at the IAA, who was amazed at what had just been discovered. Syon explained to the Times of Israel that this is a particularly rare coin that was a part of a series minted by Trajan as a tribute to the emperors that preceded him.
Trajan was emperor between 98 AD and 117 AD and is best remembered for overseeing the greatest military expansion in Roman history. This led the empire to reach its maximum territorial extent under his reign, which contributed to the Senate officially declaring Trajan “optimus princeps” (greatest ruler).
Rimon has been commended for her honesty and civic behaviour as not all historic finds are turned over, which will see the hiker presented with an official certificate in appreciation of her good citizenship. She went on to explain her mixed emotions about handing the rare coin over.
It was not easy parting with the coin. After all, it is not every day one discovers such an amazing object, but I hope I will see it displayed in a museum in the near future.
According to CNN International, the gold coin would have been too valuable for everyday use and “like using a $100 bill to buy a pack of chewing gum.” This adds to the mystery of the coin, as not a huge amount is known about Eastern Galilee during this time period, but the head curator of the coin department at the IAA, Dr. Donald T. Ariel, has hypothesized:
The coin may reflect the presence of the Roman army in the region some 2,000 years ago – possibly in the context of activity against Bar Kochba supporters in the Galilee.
Here, Ariel is referring to the Jewish rebellion against the Roman empire between 132-136 CE known as the Bar Kokhba revolt. This was led by Simon bar Kokhba and was a reaction to the religious and political tensions in Judea, with Galilee being an area where many revolt sympathizers were nearby. Ariel further explained his hypothesis.
Historical sources describing the period note that some Roman soldiers were paid a high salary of three gold coins, the equivalent of 75 silver coins, each payday. Because of their high monetary value soldiers were unable to purchase goods in the market with gold coins, as the merchants could not provide change for them.
Whilst we may never know the full story behind the coin and why it was found where it was in East Galilee, it is certainly a breathtaking find by the hiker who unearthed it. Thanks to Rimon’s selfless action in turning the rare coin over to the proper authorities, it means that hopefully soon the public will be able to enjoy this amazing discovery and historians can gain a greater insight into what occurred in this region during this fascinating period of history.
[Photo by Ariel Schalit/AP Images]