Caliphs are long gone but their money is still pretty good

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Divers in Caesarea Find Largest Treasure of Gold Coins Ever Discovered in Israel

From the Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem, Israel
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Divers-in-Caesarea-find-largest-treasur...

The largest treasure of gold coins discovered in Israel was found in recent weeks on the seabed in the ancient harbor in Caesarea National Park, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said on Tuesday.

A group of divers from the diving club in the harbor reported the find to the IAA whose officials then went with the divers to the location with a metal detector and uncovered almost 2,000 gold coins from the Fatimid period (11th century CE) in different denominations: a dinar, half dinar, and quarter dinar, of various dimensions and weight.

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Kobi Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority said there is probably a shipwreck near the find of an official Fatimid treasury boat which was on its way to the central government in Cairo after collecting taxes. Sharvit said the coins were meant to pay the salaries of the Fatimid military garrison which was stationed in Caesarea, or in the alternative the coins belonged to a large merchant ship.

Sharvit said the divers, Tzvika Feuer, Kobi Tweena, Avivit Fishler, Yoav Lavi and Yoel Miller, were model citizens for reporting the treasure to the IAA.

"They discovered the gold and have a heart of gold that loves the country and its history," he said.

The Law of Antiquities provides for a punishment of up to five years in jail for the illegal removal or sale of antiquities.

The IAA reported that the earliest coin exposed in the treasure is a quarter dinar minted in Palermo, Sicily in the second half of the ninth century CE. Most of the discovered coins belong to the Fatimid caliphs Al-Ḥākim (996–1021 CE) and his son Al-Ẓāhir (1021–1036), and were minted in Egypt and North Africa.

The Fatimids, who came from North Africa, developed the ancient city of Caesarea and other coastal cities in the area.

Robert Cole, an expert numismaticist with the IAA said the coins are in an excellent state of preservation, and despite the fact they were at the bottom of the sea for about a thousand years, they did not require any cleaning or conservation intervention from the metallurgical laboratory.

"Several of the coins that were found in the assemblage were bent and exhibit teeth and bite marks, evidence they were 'physically' inspected by their owners or the merchants," Cole said.

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