Mati Johananoff, A student from Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology, made an extraordinary find on June 21 beneath a tile floor amongst the ruins of the Castle of Apollonia.
A 108 gold dinars and quarter dinars were found buried amidst a heavy quantity of sand in a ceramic jug.
“All in all, we found some 108 dinars and quarter dinars, which makes it one of the largest gold coin hoards discovered in a medieval site in the land of Israel,” Proffesor Oren Tal, chairman of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology, told FoxNews.com
Apollonia, overlooks the Mediterranean and was once an ancient Roman settlement but it is also the site of where Richard I beat Salahaddin’s army on September 7 , 1191. The castle was used by the Crusaders as a stronghold between 1241 and its destruction in 1265 when it was attacked by the Egyptian Sultan Baybars.
The coins were dated to the Fatimid period (900-1100 AD) Each Fatimid coin is extremely detailed and bears its own story with the names of legends and local Sultans. Some coins also bear a date and mint mark, allowing one to trace where the coin was minted.
“Fatimid coins are very difficult to study because they are so informative, the legends are very long and the letters are sometimes difficult to decipher.” Tal stated
Tal was amongst the team that was excavating the site comprising of members from Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority.
“It was in a small juglet, and it was partly broken. The idea was to put something broken in the ground and fill it with sand, in order to hide the gold coins within,” Tal told FoxNews.com. “If by chance somebody were to find the juglet, he won’t excavate it, he won’t look inside it to find the gold coins. Once we started to sift it, the gold came out.”
The Gold is believed to have belonged to the Christian order of the Knights Hospitaller who used the castle.
The Order originally arrived in the Holy Land in the 12th century as a group of orderlies serving European pilgrims
Apollonia was one of their most important strongholds in the area. The hoard of coins was buried on the eve of the site’s downfall after a long siege by a large and well-prepared Muslim army.
Although it is hard to put an exact price tag on the coins, it has been estimated that the value of the 108 coins could be worth as much as $500,000. According to Tal, individual Fatimid dinar sells for $3000 or even up to $5000 apiece.
After Tal and his team have finished deciphering the coins thoroughly, the coins will be available to put on display to the general public. The coins are in great demand and there has been heated quarrel between the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and Eretz Isreal Museum in Tel Aviv, both being archaeologically orientated museums in the run to obtain the coins.
“Both want the coins on display. It’s not for us to decide,” Tal stated.