Archaeology news: Israeli soldier stumbles upon ancient Roman coin dating back 1,800 years

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The rare ancient coin was picked up by IDF soldier Ido Gardi during a training exercise. Archaeologists have dated the coin to the second century AD, sometime between the year 158 and 159 AD. The coin features an image of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius who reigned between 138 and 161 AD.

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the well-preserved artefact was minted in the city of Geva in the Jezreel Valley, northern Israel.

Only 11 such coins from known locations exist in the country’s National Treasures Department collection.

Dr Donald Tzvi Ariel, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Numismatics Department, said: “All the coins were found in northern Israel, from Megiddo and Zippori to Tiberias and Arbel.

“Among them, this coin was found closest to the place where they were minted.”

One side of the coin bears the face of the Roman emperor, while the reverse features the Syrian Moon god.

The coin also reads: “Of the people of Geva Phillipi,” and is marked with the civic year 217, dating it to 158 or 159 AD.

According to Dr Avner Ecker, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, it was common practice for cities in the Roman period to mint their own coins.

He said: “The coin discovered is one of the municipal coins minted in the city of Geva Philippi, also known as Geva Parashim.

“In the Roman period, cities (poleis) were granted the right to mint their own coins.

“The year marked on the coin is the year when the municipal council was evidently established and its citizens were allowed self-government under the Roman Empire.”

Geva is an ancient settlement that was described by the Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

King Herod stationed his cavalry forces at the site during the Great Jewish Revolt of 66 to 70 AD.

The name Geva Parashim is translated as “City of Horsemen”.

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Roman forces also marched out of Geva to fight Jewish rebels near the ancient town of Bet She‘arim, now the site of Bet She‘arim National Park.

Dr Ecker said: “Some believe that Geva is located near Sha‘ar Ha-‘Amakim, but most scholars identify the site as Tel Abu Shusha, near Kibbutz Mishmar Ha-‘Emek.

“Excavations conducted by Bar Ilan University on the tell last summer unearthed remains of fortifications and buildings dating from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine period.”

Mr Gardi reported his discovery of the coin to the National Treasures Department of the IAA, for which he was awarded a “certificate of appreciation for good citizenship”.

Nir Distelfeld, an inspector for the Antiquities Authority Northern District’s robbery prevention unit, said: “It should be stressed that antiquities are national treasures, it is forbidden to actively seek them, and any chance finds must be reported to the authority.

“The soldier, Ido Gardi, demonstrated exemplary civic behaviour and we hope he will act as an example for others who discover ancient finds.”

Earlier this year a man in Italy was detained after attempting to smuggle ancient artefacts.

Police said the man was carrying 37 ancient coins, among processed hemp chocolate and 24 grams of raw hemp.

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