A treasure trove of gold coins has been found in a broken clay juglet, among the remains of industrial kilns. Industrial pottery production at this Yavneh factory was ongoing starting near the end of the Byzantine to the beginning of the Early Islamic periods (7th-9th centuries C.E.). Liat Nadav-Ziv, leader of the excavation, and Marc Molkondov, who discovered the trove, speculate that the juglet was the personal piggy bank of a potter who worked at the site.

Yavneh, on the southern coast of Israel, is an important ancient city. It was a daughter town to the major cities of the Philistines in the Iron Age. Yavneh is best known as the site of the birth of rabbinic Judaism after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E. As we recounted in Philistine Cult Stands (Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2011), “The Sanhedrin was reconstituted here. The new moon was proclaimed here. The calendar was intercalated here. The central prayer of the synagogue service (the amidah) was formulated here. Rabbinic law (halakhah) went forth from Yavneh.”

Trove of Gold Coins. from Yavneh
Photo: Liat Nadav-Ziv, Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The trove of gold coins dates mostly to the early Abbasid period (9th century C.E.) There is one gold dinar from the reign of Caliph Haroun A-Rashid (786-809 C.E.). The trove also includes gold dinars from the Aghlabid dynasty that ruled in the area that is now Tunisia. Dr. Robert Kool examined the coins.

The excavation southeast of Tell Yavneh has been conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The industrial kilns were used for commercial production of store-jars, bowls, and cooking pots. The potter would have been employed in this work. Why his trove of gold coins was left behind is lost to history.

Evidently, the site was good for industrial uses. Large-scale production of wine took place there more than 1,000 years earlier, during the Persian period (4th-5th centuries B.C.E.). So many ancient grape pips were found that archaeologist Dr. Haddad is confident that much more wine was produced there than Yavneh’s ancient inhabitants could have consumed.

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