Jan 29, 2022

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An archaeological dig in Ramat HaSharon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, uncovered some remarkable finds including a wine press with an ornate mosaic floor and a Byzantine gold coin depicting the crucifixion of Jesus.

“The excavation unearthed evidence of agricultural-industrial activity at the site during the Byzantine period – about 1,500 years ago. Among other finds, we discovered a large winepress paved with a mosaic as well as plastered installations and the foundations of a large structure that may have been used as a warehouse or even a farmstead,” explained Dr. Yoav Arbel, Director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The winepress unveiled in Ramat Hasharon (credit: YOLI SCHWARTZ/IAA)

“Inside the buildings and installations, we found many fragments of storage jars and cooking pots that were evidently used by laborers working in the fields here. We also recovered stone mortars and millstones that were used to grind wheat and barley and probably also to crush herbs and medicinal plants,” Dr. Arbel added. “Most of the stone implements are made of basalt from the Golan Heights and Galilee.”

The gold coin unearthed in the excavation. Photo: Amir Gorzalczany, Israel Antiquities Authority

The gold coin unearthed in an excavation, bearing an engraving to mark ownership (credit: Amir Gorzalczany, Israel Antiquities Authority)

The gold coin was believed to be minted in 638 or 639 AD by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius who is depicted on one side of the coin with his two sons. The flip-side of the coin depicts the crucifixion of Jesus, as claimed by Christianity. 

An inscription is scratched into the face of the coin, likely the name of the coin’s owner, onto its surface in Greek and possibly Arabic, according to Robert Kool, a coin expert with the IAA.

“The coin encapsulates fascinating data on the decline of Byzantine rule in the country and contemporary historical events, such as the Persian invasion and the emergence of Islam, and provides information on Christian and pagan symbolism and the local population who lived here,” says Kool in the statement.

Among the finds was a bronze chain of a chandelier that once held glass lamp holders, an element frequently used in Byzantine churches. 

A bronze chain that was used to suspend a chandelier. Photo : Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority

In addition, archaeologists found evidence of a seventh-century Muslim glass-making workshop, oil lamps, and a warehouse with four large jars sunk into the floor. Archaeologists believe the containers were used to store grain.

“In this period, people were not only working at the site but also living there, because we discovered the remains of houses and two large baking ovens,” said Arbel.

Archaeologists think the site remained in use until the 11th-century CE. The artifacts were discovered during a salvage excavation prior to the construction of a neighborhood. According to Israeli law, a salvage excavation has to be conducted for any construction project.