Twenty ancient coins, including a coin of Matthieu Antigonus, one of the last of the Hasmonean kings, were seized in a joint operation Tuesday evening in eastern Jerusalem by Israel Police from Jerusalem’s Shalem station and inspectors of the Antiquities Authority’s Robbery Prevention Unit.
Coins of Mattathias Antigonus are considered the rarest among Hasmonean coins.
During the raid, 21 ancient coins were located in the possession of an Eastern Jerusalem resident about 30 years old. He was transferred to the Israel Antiquities Authority for investigation on suspicion of antiquities robbery, possession of archaeological items in violation of the law and attempted antiquities trade.
The stolen cache is a collection of ancient bronze coins from different periods including the Roman period to the Islamic period, that were allegedly illegally excavated from antiquities sites in the Jerusalem area using metal detectors.
On the front side of the coin of Mattathias Antigonus (37-40 BCE) appears a cornucopia, and around it an inscription in ancient Hebrew: “Mattathias Cohen Gadol Heber Ha …,” said Dr. Gabriela Bichovsky, coin expert at the Antiquities Authority. On the back of the coin, there is an inscription in Greek within a wreath: “ΒΑ CI ANTI ΓΟΝΟΥ”.
Matatthias minted bronze coins in three denominations: large, medium and small. The seized coin is of medium value, and is rarer than the large value, on which a pair of cornucopias appear instead of one, Bichovsky said.
“The technique of making tokens of the coins is unique to this king. The tokens were first cast in a double limestone mold, creating a thick coin, which looks like two tokens stuck together. That’s why the profile of the token is so original and special,” she said.
“After the tokens were made, the inscriptions were stamped with the models on both sides. It is very difficult to find a coin of Antigonus, where the models are seen in their entirety on the face of the coin. Among the Hasmonean coins, the coins of Mattathias Antigonus are the rarest.”
The Antiquities Authority said, however, that finding the coin in an archaeological dig – rather than in a suspect’s house – would have been better.
“The removal of the coin from the archaeological context in which it is found damages the ability to understand the historical puzzle,” explained Eli Escozido, director of the Antiquities Authority.
“Israel Police will continue to act and assist all enforcement agencies to locate suspects involved in harming the public and cultural assets, including archaeological items of great value,” police said.