A very special exhibition opens Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at the Davidson Center in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden.
For the first time the general public will be able to be see all of the different kinds of coins that were uncovered in excavations at the foot of the Temple Mount – the most ancient of which are more than 2,000 years old.
The exhibition was organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which together with the East Jerusalem Development Company, views it as the first of many other changing archaeological exhibitions that will be presented in the compound.
The coins, which were uncovered in the numerous excavations there and are on display in the exhibition, are a living tangible testimony of Jerusalem’s rich history and it being a focus of pilgrimage for thousand years. Among the many artifacts on display are a rare collection of 2,000 year old coins that were burnt during the Great Revolt by the Jews (in which the Second Temple was destroyed), unique coins that were minted in Jerusalem during this period, as well as those that were found in different excavations in the region and have a wide geographic provenance (from Persia, via North Africa and as far France), a fact that attests to the centrality of Jerusalem for all of the people who visited it thousands of years ago while leaving behind a “souvenir” in the area. Another interesting aspect presented in the exhibition is the difference between the Jewish coins and the rest of the coins. Contrary to pagan coins, the ruler was usually not depicted on Jewish coins due to the Jewish abstention from portraying images (“You shall not make for yourself a graven image or likeness of anything…”). For that reason, a variety of inanimate symbols, such as a wreath, scepter and helmet, appear on many Jewish coins.
Another extraordinary find that is to be presented to the public for the first time is a very rare shekel that was minted by the rebels during the last months of the revolt, in the year 70 CE
In addition, a fragment of a large sarcophagus lid is to be displayed for the first time in the Davidson Center. It was found in excavations north of Jerusalem and is engraved with an inscription in square script that is characteristic of the Second Temple period. The lid is meticulously fashioned and the carved inscription on it reads: “…Ben HaCohen HaGadol…” (son of the high priest). Numerous high priests served in the temple during the latter part of the Second Temple period and there is no way of knowing which of the high priests the inscription refers to. However, it should probably be identified with one of the priests who officiated there between the years 30 and 70 CE. Among the high priests we know of from the end of the Second Temple period are Caiaphas the priest, Theophilus (Yedidiya) Ben Hanan, Simon Ben Boethus, Hanan Ben Hanan and others. The excavations were conducted by the Unit of the Archaeological Staff Officer of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, under the direction of Naftali Aizik and Benyamin Hareven, within the framework of the salvage excavations along the separation fence that were conducted with funding provided by the Ministry of Defense.
The exhibitions were made possible by the William Davidson Foundation and Estanne Fawer.