A joint team from Tel Aviv University and Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority have discovered a buried treasure estimated to be worth roughly $500,000 at an ancient Roman settlement near the country's coast, according to reports.
The Israeli News site Haaretz relates:
The cache consists of 108 gold coins, 93 of them comprised of 4 grams of gold and worth about a dinar each and 15 coins worth a quarter of a dinar, comprised of 1 gram of gold each. The coins were minted in Egypt some 250 years before being buried in the fortress' floor.
So how did the coins make their way to Israel?
Reports indicate that the area was a strategic stronghold for the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries, and one of the most important residences for the Knights Hospitaller in the region.
Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, it was the site of a famous 12th century battle between King Richard I - known as Lionheart - and the Muslim leader Saladin, Reuters relates. But by 1265, roughly 80 years later, the tide had dramatically turned. The Muslim army returned under a different general, hungry for revenge, and captured the city after 40 days of siege.
The head of the Apollonia digging team, Professor Oren Tal of Tel Aviv University explained: "I think the stash was deliberately buried in a partly broken vessel, which was then filled with sand and laid under the floor tiles...So if anyone found it he would think it's a broken pot and pay no attention to it."
Apollonia National Park director Haggai Yoyanan declared: "It was hastily hidden just before the fall...With the other findings, it tells a story of a prolonged siege and a harsh battle."
And after the siege, the castle was abandoned and has not been inhabited since-- leaving the treasure intact.
Fox News has more information:
The hoard of coins themselves -- found on June 21, 2012, by Mati Johananoff, a student of TAU Department of Archaeology -- date to the times of the Fatimid empire, which dominated northern Africa and parts of the Middle East at the time. Tal estimates their date to the 10th and 11th centuries, although they were circulated in the 13th century.
“Some were minted some 250 to 300 years before they were used by the Hospitaller knights,” he explained. The coins are covered in icons and inscriptions: the names and legends of local sultans, Tal said, as well as blessings.
Some also bear a date, and even a mint mark, a code that indicates where it was minted, whether Alexandria, Tripoli, or another ancient mint.
“Fatimid coins are very difficult to study because they are so informative,” Tal told FoxNews.com. “The legends are very long, the letters are sometimes difficult to decipher.”
All that remains is for the researchers to thoroughly study and decipher the coins, before they are transferred to a museum. One of the largest treasure troves ever discovered in Israel, according to Haaretz, museums have predictably already started to bicker over who will host the findings.
Tal said the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is in the running, but so is the Eretz (or Land of Israel) Museum in Tel Aviv. But the professor has already done his part, and says of the museum selection: "It's not for us to decide."
NTDTV has video of the hoard, and interviews with the fortunate archaeologists: