Rare gold coin, nearly 2000 years old, discovered by hiker in Israel

A hiker found a rare gold coin in IsraelIsrael Antiquities Authority

A hiker in the Israeli countryside has found a rare gold coin that is nearly 2,000 years old. 

It is one of a series dedicated by Emperor Trajan to Roman emperors of the past, in this case to Augustus, who was Roman Emperor at the time of the birth of Jesus. There is just one other coin in the world like it, and that is preserved in the British Museum in London.

Laurie Rimon, a member of Kibbutz Kefar Blum, who was hiking with friends in the countryside, saw the coin just lying in the grass during a trip to an archaeological site in eastern Galilee with a group of veteran hikers.

Tour guides Irit Zuk-Kovacsi  and Dr Motti Aviam contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority and within two hours an expert had reached the hikers in the field.

Israel Antiquities Authority

Rimon, who gave him the coin immediately, said: "It was not easy parting with the coin. After all, it is not every day one discovers such an amazing object, but I hope I will see it displayed in a museum in the near future."

Nir Distelfeld, of the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, said: "Laurie demonstrated exemplary civic behavior by handing this important coin over to the Antiquities Authority. This is an extraordinarily remarkable and surprising discovery. I believe that soon, thanks to Laurie, the public will be able to enjoy this rare find. It is important to know that when you find an archaeological artifact it is advisable to call IAA representatives to the location spot in the field. That way we can also gather the relevant archaeological and contextual information from the site."

Rimon is to be awarded a certificate of appreciation for her good citizenship.

Dr Danny Syon, a senior numismatist at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: "This coin, minted in Rome in 107 CE, is rare on a global level. On the reverse we have the symbols of the Roman legions next to the name of the ruler Trajan, and on the obverse – instead of an image of the emperor Trajan, as was usually the case, there is the portrait of the emperor Augustus Deified. This coin is part of a series of coins minted by Trajan as a tribute to the emperors that preceded him."

Donald Ariel, head curator of the coin department at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: "The coin may reflect the presence of the Roman army in the region some 2,000 years ago – possibly in the context of activity against Bar Kokhba supporters in the Galilee – but it is very difficult to determine that on the basis of a single coin. Historical sources describing the period note that some Roman soldiers were paid a high salary of three gold coins, the equivalent of 75 silver coins, each payday. Because of their high monetary value soldiers were unable to purchase goods in the market with gold coins, as the merchants could not provide change for them."

Jesus preached a famous parable about a lost coin, recorded in Luke 15.

He said: "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."