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Golden treasure discovered at foot of Temple Mount in Jerusalem

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 10th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Thirty-six gold coins, gold and silver jewelry and a gold medallion with a Temple candelabrum symbol etched into it was discovered at the foot of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. These unique treasures were uncovered during excavations this summer.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The find was declared "a breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime discovery," by Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar. "We have been making significant finds from the First Temple Period in this area, a much earlier time in Jerusalem's history, so discovering a golden seven-branched Menorah from the seventh century CE at the foot of the Temple Mount was a complete surprise."

A third-generation archaeologist working at the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology, Mazar directs excavations on the City of David's summit and at the Temple Mount's southern wall, the Ophel area.

Unearthed just five days into Mazar's latest phase of the Ophel excavations, the items can be dated to the late Byzantine period, which was the early seventh century. The gold treasure was discovered in a ruined Byzantine public structure, a short 164 feet from the Temple Mount's southern wall.

The menorah, a candelabrum with seven branches that was used in the Temple is the national symbol of the State of Israel. The object reflects the historical presence of Jews in the area. One bundle was carefully hidden underground, while the second bundle was apparently abandoned in haste and scattered across the floor. Researchers say the position of the items as they were found indicates this. Mazar estimates they were abandoned in the context of the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 CE.

"It would appear that the most likely explanation is that the Ophel cache was earmarked as a contribution toward the building of a new synagogue, at a location that is near the Temple Mount," Mazar says. "What is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful. The treasure was abandoned, and its owners could never return to collect it."

Following the Persian victory over Jerusalem, many Jews returned to the city and formed the majority of its population, hoping for political and religious freedom. As Persian influence waned, instead of forming an alliance with the Jews, the Persians sought the support of Christians, eventually turning away the Jews from Jerusalem.

It's believed that the menorah medallion is most likely an ornament for a Torah scroll. If this is correct, it is the earliest Torah scroll ornament found in archaeological excavations to date. The item was buried in a small depression in the floor, along with a smaller gold medallion, two pendants, a gold coil and a silver clasp, all of which are believed to be Torah scroll ornamentations.

"The 36 gold coins can be dated to the reigns of different Byzantine emperors, ranging from the middle of the fourth century CE to the early seventh century CE," Lior Sandberg, numismatics specialist at the Institute of Archaeology says. The Ophel cache is the third collection of gold coins to be found in archaeological excavations in Jerusalem.

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