Bronze coins thought to be the last remnants of a four-year Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire were found near Har HaBayis by Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar during renewed excavations at the Ophel, located below the mount’s southern wall.
These 1.5cm bronze coins were left behind by Jewish residents who hid in a large cave (7×14 meters) for four years, from the Roman siege of Yerushalayim, up until the destruction of Bayis Sheini.
While several of the coins date to the early years of the revolt, the great majority are from its final year. Significantly, during that year, the Hebrew inscription on the coins was changed from “For the Freedom of Zion” to “For the Redemption of Zion,” a shift which archeologists suggest reflects the changing mood of the rebels during this period of horror and famine.
“A discovery like this—ancient coins bearing the words ‘Freedom’ and ‘Redemption’—found right before the Jewish Festival of Freedom—Pesach—begins, is incredibly moving,” said Dr. Mazar.
In addition to Hebrew inscriptions, the coins were decorated with Jewish symbols, such as the arbaah minim, and a picture of the goblet that was used in the Mikdash.
Many broken pottery vessels, including jars and cooking pots, were also found in the cave. According to Mazar, it is remarkable that this cave was never discovered by subsequent residents of the city nor used again after the Bayis Sheini period. In this way the cave acts as a veritable time capsule of life in Yerushalayim under the siege and during the four-year revolt against the Roman Empire.
According to Mazar, the coins were well preserved, probably because they were in use for such a short time.