Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed an Islamic treasure trove of 425 pure gold coins from the period of the Abbasid Caliphate, which is 1,100 years old, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The treasure was hidden buried in an earthenware vessel and contains 425 coins, mostly from the Abbasid period. The person who buried it 1,100 years ago must have expected to recover it, and even closed the pot with a nail so that it would not move,” Liat Nadav-Ziv and Elie Haddad, the archaeologists in charge of the excavation, explained in a statement.


“Finding this considerable quantity of gold coins is extremely rare. We hardly ever find them in archaeological excavations. Since gold has always been extremely valuable, it was melted and reused, from generation to generation. These coins are made of pure gold, so they do not oxidise with air, they have been found in excellent condition, as if they had been buried yesterday”, they add.

La Autoridad de Antigüedades de Israel reveló un tesoro de 425 monedas de oro que se dice que tienen unos 1.200 años de antigüedad, descubiertas en lo que fue una zona industrial durante el período bizantino
AFP/HEIDI LEVINE – The Israel Antiquities Authority revealed a treasure trove of 425 gold coins said to be about 1,100 years old, discovered in what was an industrial zone during the Byzantine period

The discovery, they believe, may indicate that there was international trade between this area and other more remote areas.

Robert Kool, an expert on coins from the AAI, points out that “it is extremely rare to find treasures from the Abbasid period in excavations in Israel, especially gold coins. This one, from the end of the 9th century to. C., is one of the oldest found. The coins are 24-carat gold and the total weight of the treasure is 845 grams, a significant amount of money in those days”.

El arqueólogo israelí Shahar Krispin muestra una moneda de oro que fue descubierta en un sitio arqueológico en el centro de Israel, el martes 18 de agosto de 2020
AFP/HEIDI LEVINE – Israeli archaeologist Shahar Krispin shows a gold coin that was discovered at an archaeological site in central Israel on Tuesday, August 18, 2020

With that sum, he estimates, its owner would have been able to buy a luxurious house in the best neighbourhoods of Fustat, the capital of Egypt at the time.

Most of the coins date from that century, when the Abbasid Caliphate stretched from Persia in the east to North Africa in the west, and whose centre of government was in Baghdad, present-day Iraq.

The treasure trove contains gold dinars, but also some 270 small pieces of dinars cut up to serve as bargaining chips.

“The cutting of gold and silver coins was commonly used in the monetary system in Islamic countries after 850 BC, when bronze and copper coins suddenly disappeared,” explains Kool.