Israel unveils its largest find of medieval gold coins

Kobi Sharvit of The Israel Antiquities Authority holds Fatimid period gold coins that were found in the seabed in the Mediterranean Sea near the port of Caesarea National Park in Caesarea, Israel.

— Israel unveiled last week the largest collection of medieval gold coins ever found in the country, accidentally discovered by amateur divers and dating back about a thousand years.

The find was made three weeks ago near the Israeli port city of Caesarea and consists of some 2,000 coins, weighing about 13 pounds, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

The coins were likely swept up in recent storms, said Kobi Sharvit, director of the authority’s marine archaeology unit, adding that they provided “fascinating and rare historical evidence” from the Fatimid era in the 10th and 11th centuries.

The divers initially thought they had spotted toy coins but later showed a few of them to officials.

Marine archeologists, using metal detectors, then found the larger haul with coins of various denominations, dimensions and weight. The divers handed over all the coins.

Sharvit said they probably came from a boat that sank on its way to deliver tax money to Egypt or from a merchant ship trading among Mediterranean coastal cities.

He said archeologists hope further excavations at the site of the find will make it possible “to supplement our understanding of the entire archaeological context, and thus answer the many questions that still remain unanswered about the treasure.”

Most of the coins appear to have belonged to the Fatimid caliphs Al-Hakim and his son Al-Dhahir and minted later. The Fatimid kingdom ruled Northern Africa, beginning in the 10th century.