Rare, gold Roman coin discovered in Jerusalem

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A rare and remarkable Roman coin made of gold and featuring the image of Nero has been discovered in Jerusalem, archaeologists announced on Tuesday.

Over 1,900 years old, the coin likely dates to the year 56 or 57 AD, around 13 years before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.

"The coin is exceptional, because this is the first time that a coin of this kind has turned up in Jerusalem in a scientific dig,” Shimon Gibson, an archaeologist and adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, said in a statement. “Coins of this type are usually only found in private collections, where we don't have clear evidence as to place of origin."

The archaeologists discovered it this summer during a dig on Mount Zion in Jerusalem; it was found in rubble near villas that might have been the homes of the wealthy Jewish residents of the time, possibly members of a well-to-do priestly class. At the site, the archaeologists have also found the rooms of a large mansion and even a ritual pool.


When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, the precious coin could have been lost in the fray, the archaeologists behind the discovery think.

"It's a valuable piece of personal property and wouldn't have been cast away like rubbish or casually dropped,” Gibson said in the statement. “It's conceivable that it ended up outside these structures in the chaos that happened as this area was destroyed."

Nero, the Roman leader on the coin, ruled the empire from 54 to 68 AD, and isn’t thought to have traveled to Jerusalem himself. The text surrounding his bust on the coin is: “NERO CAESAR AVG IMP.”

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger