Talk about Jerusalem of Gold!
Months hardly pass in Israel without an archeological discovery of some wild magnitude. 5774 is off to a pretty good start. YNet and others are reporting today of the uncovering of what’s being called “the Ophel Treasure,” named for the area of the Temple Mount where the trove of 1,400-year-old coins, jewelry, and even a Torah scroll ornament were found over the summer.
The discovery was unearthed just five days into [Archeologist Dr. Eilat] Mazar’s latest phase of the Ophel excavations, and can be dated to the late Byzantine period (early seventh century CE). The gold treasure was discovered in a ruined Byzantine public structure, a mere 50 meters (164 feet) from the Temple Mount’s southern wall.
The menorah, a candelabrum with seven branches that was used in the Temple, the national symbol of the State of Israel, reflects the historical presence of Jews in the area. The position of the items as they were discovered indicates that one bundle was carefully hidden underground while the second bundle was apparently abandoned in haste and scattered across the floor.
Given the date of the items and the manner in which they were found, Mazar estimates they were abandoned in the context of the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 CE.
Dr. Mazer, a third-generation archeologist who works with Hebrew University, called it a “once-in-a-lifetime” discovery. But this is hardly her first score:
Mazar’s Ophel excavation made headlines earlier this year when she announced the 2012 discovery of an ancient Canaanite inscription – recently identified as Hebrew – the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in Jerusalem.
In other news, I found an ancient MetroCard from 5773.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.