A hiker recently found a 2,000-year-old Roman gold coin of which there is only known to be one other example, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.
The coin carries an image of the Emperor Augustus, founder of the Roman Empire, who ruled from 27 BCE until his death in 14 CE, and was minted by Emperor Trajan in 107 CE.
Only the British Museum in London has another coin like it, which, until the recent discovery, was thought to be the only one in the world.
Laurie Rimon, of Kibbutz Kfar Blum, was hiking with friends in the eastern Galilee in the north of country when the group arrived at an archaeological site. Rimon saw something shiny lying on the ground in the grass and, after picking it up, realized she was holding an ancient gold coin. The group contacted the IAA, which quickly sent a representative out to the location.
Danny Syon, a senior numismatist at the IAA, explained that Trajan ordered coins struck with images of previous Roman emperors to honor their memory.
“On the reverse we have the symbols of the Roman legions next to the name of the ruler Trajan, and on the obverse – instead of an image of the emperor Trajan, as was usually the case, there is the portrait of the emperor ‘Augustus Deified,’ Syon said. “This coin is part of a series of coins minted by Trajan as a tribute to the emperors that preceded him.”
“It was not easy parting with the coin,” Rimon admitted. “After all, it is not every day one discovers such an amazing object, but I hope I will see it displayed in a museum in the near future.”
Nir Distelfeld, an inspector with the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, praised Rimon for turning over the coin.
“This is an extraordinarily remarkable and surprising discovery. I believe that soon, thanks to Laurie, the public will be able to enjoy this rare find.”
The IAA plans to reward Rimon’s honesty by presenting her with an official certificate in appreciation of her good citizenship.
Distelfeld urged members of the public who find ancient artifacts to contact the IAA immediately and arrange for a representative to meet them in the field so that the site of the find can be excavated.
“That way we can also gather the relevant archaeological and contextual information from the site,” he noted.
According to Donald T. Ariel, head curator of the coin department at the IAA, “The coin may reflect the presence of the Roman army in the region some 2,000 years ago – possibly in the context of activity against Bar Kochba supporters in the Galilee – but it is very difficult to determine that on the basis of a single coin.”
Bar Kochba led an ultimately doomed Jewish rebellion against Roman rule in the land of Israel during 132-136 CE.
“Historical sources describing the period note that some Roman soldiers were paid a high salary of three gold coins, the equivalent of 75 silver coins, each payday. Because of their high monetary value soldiers were unable to purchase goods in the market with gold coins, as the merchants could not provide change for them,” Ariel said.
“While the bronze and silver coins of Emperor Trajan are common in the country, his gold coins are extremely rare,” he continued. “So far, only two other gold coins of this emperor have been registered in the State Treasures, one from Givat Shaul near Jerusalem, and the other from the Kiryat Gat region and the details on both of them are different to those that appear on the rare coin that Laurie found.”
Trajan was emperor from 98 CE until his death in 117 CE. During his reign the empire reached its greatest size and he sponsored construction projects whose remains can be seen to this day.