Rare coin bears good tidings for UNO’s Israeli excavations
By John Keenan
Dr. Rami Arav didn’t get into archaeology for the money.
He was very excited, however, when his team of researchers uncovered a rare gold coin during excavation work in the ancient city of Bethsaida, near the Sea of Galilee in Israel.
Arav is director of excavation and research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Bethsaida Excavations Project, a 24-year effort to uncover the archaeological mysteries of the biblical-era city.
The coin, which weighs 7 grams, is 97.6 percent gold, Arav said.
he find was unexpected because Bethsaida primarily was home to humble fishermen, he said. Arav said somebody must have been doing good business a little more than 100 years after the birth of Christ.
The gold coin, about three-quarters of an inch in diameter, carries the image of Antoninus Pius, the 15th Roman emperor, who reigned between A.D. 138 and 161.
“Before newspapers, coins fulfilled the job of disseminating information. In our case, Antoninus wanted to announce that the Senate
designated him to the position of a consul for the second time. This position was among the highest at Rome.”
The Bethsaida coin is the first Antoninus Pius gold coin excavated in Israel, Arav said, and as far as he knows, it’s the first discovery of this particular kind of coin.
Archaeologists have unearthed other coins announcing the news of Antoninus Pius’s appointment, but none bears the same picture on the reverse side, where the goddess Pietas stands before an altar, he said.
Arav said West Virginia University student Alexis Whitley discovered the coin.
It is hard to put a monetary value on the coin, Arav said.
“This type of a coin was never sold in the market because it is so rare,” he said. “It may go for as much as people will be able to pay for it.”
For now, the coin — along with the rest of the Bethsaida finds, considered to be the heritage of the State of Israel — will go to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Its ultimate destination probably will be the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Arav said.
“Bethsaida has already enriched the Israel Museum with a few other outstanding and rare finds.”
HT: Joe Lauer!