Hasmonean hoard uncovered near Modi’in in Central Israel

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Salvage excavations taking place prior to the construction of a new neighborhood in Modi’in, sponsored by the Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut municipality with the participation of youth from the local area, have uncovered a rare hoard of silver coins dating from the Hasmonean period (126 BC) and bearing the names of Maccabean kings. The treasure was concealed in a rock crevice beside a wall of what has been interpreted as a large ‘Jewish agricultural estate’ by excavators.

Avraham Tendler (Israel antiquities Authority), the director of the excavation, commented that the hoard consisted 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.’ Excavators believe that the hoard was hidden by the owners of the agricultural estate at a time of crisis in which they were forced to suddenly abandon the house. They suggest that the owner probably hoped to return and collect the hoard but, for some unknown reason, never had the opportunity to do so.

The head of the Coin department of the IAA, Dr. Donald Tzvi Ariel, believes that the coins in the hoard were selected with a considerable degree of care, and that they may have belonged to a ‘coin collector’. The cache consists of 16 coins from 9 consecutive years between 135-126 BC. Dr. Tzvi comments of the owner, “He acted in just the same way as stamp and coin collectors manage collections today.”

Excavators interpret that a Jewish family founded an agricultural estate of olive groves and vineyards on neighbouring hills, and grain plantations in the valleys. An olive press and storage rooms which housed olive oil have been uncovered next to the estate, along with dozens of rock-hewn winepresses. It is evident that the owners of the estate held strictly to laws of ritual purity. Ritual baths and vessels made of chalk (which cannot be unclean according to Jewish law) have been uncovered.

Some bronze coins bearing the names of Hasmonean kings such as Yehohanan, Judah, Jonathan and Mattithias were also found in the excavation. There is even some evidence that excavators suggest indicate that the residents of the estate were involved in the first revolt against the Romans in 66 AD. Coins from this period bore stamps marking the second year of the revolt and also a slogan of the rebellion ‘Freedom to Zion’.

Tendler comments:

It seems that local residents did not give up hope of gaining their independence from Rome, and they were well-prepared to fight the enemy during the Bar Kokhba uprising. During the excavation we saw how prior to the uprising the inhabitants of the estate filled the living rooms next to the outer wall of the building with large stones, thus creating a fortified barrier. In addition, we discovered hiding refuges that were hewn in the bedrock beneath the floors of the estate house. These refuge complexes were connected by means of tunnels between water cisterns, storage pits and hidden rooms. In one of the adjacent excavation areas a miqwe of impressive beauty was exposed; when we excavated deeper in the bath we discovered an opening inside it that led to an extensive hiding refuge in which numerous artifacts were found that date to the time of the Bar Kokhba uprising.

The finds revealed in excavations at the site are to be displayed in a new archaeological park in the center of the new neighborhood under construction.