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Archaeologists discover 1,400-year-old coins hidden by fleeing Christians

(Wikimedia Commons/Yairp)The interchange between Highway 1 and Jerusalem Route 9 under construction. Feb. 22, 2007.

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a cache of nine bronze coins dating back to the seventh century A.D. during a salvage excavation conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authorities (IAA) as part of the widening of Highway 1 between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The coins are believed to be hidden by Christians who were fleeing ahead of invading Persian forces, Haaretz reported. During the course of the excavations, the archaeologists found a large two-story structure and an adjacent built, complex winepress.

"The hoard was found amongst large stones that had collapsed alongside the building," said Annette Landes-Nagar, director of the excavation.

"It seems that during a time of danger the owner of the hoard placed the coins in a cloth purse that he concealed inside a hidden niche in the wall. He probably hoped to go back and collect it, but today we know that he was unable to do so," she continued.

The coins, which were minted in Constantinople, Antioch, and Nicomedia, contained the images of Byzantine emperors Justinian (483-565 AD), Maurice (539-602 CE) and Phocas (547-610 CE).

The obverse of the coins depicts an image of an emperor wearing military garb and carrying crosses, while the reverse indicated the denomination.

The archaeologists believe that the Christians concealed the coins as the Persians invaded in 614 A.D., which marks the end of Byzantine rule in the land. The area was abandoned and covered over until it was incorporated in the agricultural terraces that characterize the region.

The building and the winepress belong to a larger site that extends across Highway 1, which also includes the remains of a Byzantine church.

"The Israel Antiquities Authority and Netivei Israel are working together to conserve the site as a landmark in the scenery alongside Highway No. 1," said Amit Shadman, the district archaeologist for Judah.

Salvage excavations ahead of construction works are common in Israel as it is littered with archaeological remains, some of which date back to the dawn of human history.

In 2014, archaeologists discovered mosaic floors done in rare colors, which also date back to the Byzantine era near the Bedouin village of Hura in the Negev.

In 1996, a bulldozer in Lod uncovered the tail of a tiger mosaic, which led to the discovery of one of the largest and best-preserved Roman mosaics ever found, which was from around 300 A.D.

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