Israel: Archaelogists find rare ancient coins dating back to before Jesus' birth

A cache of rare Jewish silver coins dating back to before Jesus was born have been discovered in Israel, giving new insight into an ancient Jewish settlement, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The Israel Antiquities Authority has unearthed a cache of coins dating back to 126 BCE.Youtube / IAA

The coins, which are thought to date back to approximately 126 BCE, "may have belonged to a Jew who hid his money in the hope of coming back to collect it, but he was unlucky and never did return," according to the director of the excavation, Avraham Tendler.

They were found in the Modi'in area of Israel in a rock crevice during excavations before construction began on a new neighbourhood.

The cache "comprised of shekels and half-shekels (tetradrachms anddidrachms) that were minted in the city of Tyre and bear the images of the king, Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II," Tendler said.

It is thought the area was historically an agricultural estate built by a Jewish family during the Hasmonean period.

"The family members planted olive trees and vineyards on the neighboring hills and grew grain in valleys. An industrial area that includes an olive press and storehouses where the olive oil was kept is currently being uncovered next to the estate," said Tendler.

"The Jewish inhabitants of the estate meticulously adhered to the laws of ritual purity and impurity: they installed ritual baths (miqwe'ot) in their settlement and used vessels made of chalk, which according to Jewish law cannot become ritually unclean," he added.

An underground tunnel system and large stones used to create a fortified barrier found in the area suggest the estate was involved in the first uprising against the Romans in 66 AD. Findings also suggest that the estate continued after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

"It seems that local residents did not give up hope of gaining their independence from Rome, and they were well-prepared to fight the enemy during the Bar Kokhba uprising", said Tendler.

The IAA has said the findings will be preserved and become a centrepiece for the new neighbourhood.