The use of the metal silver as an economic means of exchange and commerce is well-documented in our region by the dozens of silver hoards (hacksilber) that date from the Middle Bronze Age. The finds indicate that the use of them was wide spread in the southern Levant during the Iron Age and especially afterwards. Some of the hoards were found wrapped in a piece of cloth that was sealed with a stamped bulla in order to ensure its contents, and that is similar to the stampings on coins.

From the time of the Babylonian period and the beginning of Achaemanid rule almost no silver hoards were found in our region and their place was probably taken by Greek Archaic coins. The local tradition in which pieces of silver were weighed remained in use during this transition period because many of the Archaic coins, particularly early Athenian tetradrachmae, have been discovered cut, sometimes even in a regular manner into equal halves and quarters.

The two centuries of Achaemanid rule in the Near East, from 538-332 BCE, is a decisive period in the economic, political and cultural history of our region. From the end of the sixth century we see a transition in the method of payment, from the use of metals (primarily silver) as bullion to coins, at first foreign coins and later local coins. These local coins constitute some of the artistic and probably also religious archaeological evidence about the south of the Land of Israel (Philistia, Judah and Samaria) in the Persian period. The motifs that were stamped were used quite often as a means to communicate propaganda that was probably an expression of the municipal, dynastic, as well as religious power of the minting centers. In a period when coins constituted almost the sole means of mass communication, it is apparent that different motifs were intentionally used to transfer a certain message (which is mostly hidden from us today). The images and the imagery that appear on them represent the customs of the period, sometimes with foreign influence, but they mostly symbolize a world of vast local imagery.

The focus of the lecture will deal with the change that began with the use of silver, from its being an economic instrument only until it became, with the appearance of local coins in the Persian period, a political and social instrument also.