Coming off an array of exciting holy land finds, archaeologists have now discovered ancient treasure at the foot of the Temple Mount, one of the world's most revered religious sites. The uncovered items provide further insight into Jewish life in Jerusalem, while also offering a lens into a highly-contentious time in the region's history.
During excavations this summer, Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University of Jerusalem found stunning relics including 36 gold coins, gold and silver jewelry and a gold medallion, the university announced.
Jewelry found during the latest Temple Mount dig in Jerusalem. (Photo credit: Hebrew University)
The medallion has a menorah symbol etched into it, along with a ram's horn, known as a shofar, and a Torah scroll. It's believed the medallion was used to adorn a Torah scroll. Mazar is calling the find "a breathtaking, once in a lifetime discovery."
"We have been making significant finds from the first temple period in this area, a much earlier time in Jerusalem’s history, so discovering a golden seven-branched menorah from the 7th century CE at the foot of the Temple Mount was a complete surprise," Mazar said in a news release.
Here's more about the find:
Based on how the items, which were organized into two bundles, were discovered, Mazar believes they likely date back to the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 A.D. One of the bundles was hidden underneath the ground and the other was seemingly abandoned in haste, with contents scattered on the floor, the university said.
It's thought that the items were hidden to eventually contribute to a potential new synagogue near the Temple Mount, something that obviously never happened, as they were never retrieved. The resulting find at the site, referred to as the "Ophel Treasure," is only the third collection of coins to be uncovered in Jerusalem excavations, according to Hebrew University.
The items were found in a Byzantine public structure that fell into ruins.
A medallion found during the latest Temple Mount dig in Jerusalem. (Photo credit: Hebrew University)
These latest discoveries come after yet another exciting recent find by Mazar and her team. In July, they uncovered the earliest sample of written text ever found in Jerusalem. The piece that was discovered is part of a ceramic necklace jar — one that dates back to the time of Kings David and Solomon, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported earlier this summer.
The relic emerged near the southern wall of the Old City.
It is significant mainly because the text, which is in the Canaanite language, is 250 years older than the earliest known Hebrew writings found in Jerusalem. This latter inscription dates back to the 8th century BC (read more about this discovery here).