700 year-old gold coins found in Israel

Published: 09th July 2012 11:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th July 2012 11:05 AM   |  A+A-

By IANS

In what appears to be one of the largest-ever such finds, a rare cache of gold coins valued at over $100,000 has been recovered from an Israeli coastal city, Xinhua reported.

According to the Ha'aretz daily, the stash, weighing 400 grams, was unearthed at the 13th century fortress at Apollonia Park, near Tel Aviv, one of the most populous cities of Israel, by a joint Tel Aviv University (TAU) and Nature and Parks Authority team.

The hoard consists of 108 gold coins, 93 of them weighing four grams of gold each and 15 gold coins weighing one gram each. They were minted in Egypt some 250 years before being buried in the fortress' floor.

The excavation began three years ago to prevent the collapse of a slowly disintegrating seaside cliff. Since then, the diggers have discovered numerous findings that shed light on the crusader period and of the fortress' last days.

Other findings include hundreds of arrow heads and catapult stones from the battle in which the Mamlukes (members of a military castle who controlled Egypt between 12th and 16th century) conquered the castle from the crusaders and remains of glass utensils from Italy.

Researchers believe one of the fortress' leaders may have hidden the treasure to save it from Muslim conquerors, with a hope to retrieve it again later.

"I believe that the stash was deliberately buried in a partly broken vessel, which was then filled with sand and laid under the floor," said Oren Tal, the head of the Apollonia digging team and a professor with TAU.

"The findings indicate a prolonged siege and a harsh battle that took place at the site," Tal added.

The fortress on the coastline and the city beside it were ruled by the Christian Order of the Knights Hospitaller. It was one of the most important crusader strongholds in the centre of the country during the 13th and 14th century.

In March 1265, Mamluke Sultan Baybars stormed the city and captured it after 40 days of siege. The site, abandoned in ruins, has not been inhabited since.

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