Rare Coins from Chashmona’im Period Found in Modi’in Excavation

The cache of silver coins found at the estate house. (Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)
The cache of silver coins found at the estate house. (Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

A rare discovery of silver coins archaeologists believe date to the Chashmona’im period (126 BCE) was made in April in an excavation near Modi’in.

The find was made with the participation of local youths during excavations prior to the construction of a new neighborhood, at the initiative of the Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut municipality. The treasure was hidden in a rock crevice, up against a wall of an impressive agricultural estate that was discovered during the excavation there.

According to Avraham Tendler, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority: “This is a rare cache of silver coins from the Chashmona’im period comprised of shekels and half-shekels (tetradrachms and didrachms) that were minted in the city of Tyre and bear the images of the king, Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II. The cache that we found is compelling evidence that one of the members of the estate who had saved his income for months needed to leave the house for some unknown reason. He buried his money in the hope of coming back and collecting it, but was apparently unfortunate and never returned. It is exciting to think that the coin hoard was waiting here 2,140 years until we exposed it.”

According to Dr. Donald Tzvi Ariel, the head of the Coin Department at the Israel Antiquities Authority: “The cache, which consists of 16 coins, contains one or two coins from every year between 135 and 126 BCE, and a total of nine consecutive years are represented. It seems that some thought went into collecting the coins, and it is possible that the person who buried the cache was a coin collector. He acted in just the same way as stamp and coin collectors manage collections today.”

Tendler added, “The findings from our excavation show that a Jewish family established an agricultural estate on this hill during this period. The family members planted olive trees and vineyards on the neighboring hills and grew grain in valleys. An industrial area that includes an olive press and storehouses where the olive oil was kept is currently being uncovered next to the estate. Dozens of rock-hewn winepresses that reflect the importance of viticulture and the wine industry in the area were exposed in the cultivation plots next to the estate. The estate house was built of massive walls in order to provide security from the attacks of marauding bandits.”

Numerous bronze coins minted by the Chashmona’i kings were also discovered in the excavation. They bear the names of the kings such as Yochanan, Yehudah, Yonasan or Mattisyahu and his title: High Priest and Head of the Council of the Jews. The finds indicate that the estate continued to operate throughout the Early Roman period. The Jewish inhabitants of the estate meticulously adhered to the laws of ritual purity and impurity: they installed mikvaos and used vessels made of chalk, which according to Jewish law cannot become ritually unclean.

The unique finds revealed in the excavation will be preserved in an archaeological park in the heart of the new neighborhood slated for construction in Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut.

Minister of Culture Miri Regev welcomed the news: “This ancient treasure supplies further evidence of the continuous Jewish habitation of Yerushalayim and Yehudah over thousands of years. This is exciting testimony of the connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.”