A few days ago we talked about how a 7-year old boy discovered by chance a 3,400 years old female figure in Israel. Well it seems the streak of ‘accidental archaeology’ is still hot in the country – and this time around it was an Israeli hiker named Laurie Rimon who did the finding. She literally struck gold in the form of an almost 2,000-year old Roman coin that harks back to the period of Emperor Trajan (when the Roman empire was at its greatest extent). To be exact, the gold coin is dated from 107 AD, and it depicts the first Roman emperor Augustus, thus suggesting its origin as a part of a collection that commemorated the emperors before Trajan. As for the sheer significance of this chance discovery, according to Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), there is only another coin specimen of such a commemorative collection from Trajan known to the world, and it is displayed at the famous British Museum in London.
Laurie Rimon, who hails from Kibbutz Kfar Blum, was hiking along the scenic eastern Galilee trail in northern Israel when she came across a shiny object hidden in the grass. On further inspection, she was able to comprehend that it was an ancient coin. And then making an exemplary case for civic sense, she contacted the IAA; and thus experts were able to quickly verify the nature and date of this extremely rare Roman coin. So like in the case of 7-year old Ori Greenhut, Rimon will be deservedly awarded with an official certificate in appreciation of her good citizenship.
As for the depiction of Augustus on a coin (hundred years after his reign), this is what Danny Syon, a senior numismatist at the IAA, had to say –
On the reverse we have the symbols of the Roman legions next to the name of the ruler Trajan, and on the obverse – instead of an image of the emperor Trajan, as was usually the case, there is the portrait of the emperor ‘Augustus Deified’. This coin is part of a series of coins minted by Trajan as a tribute to the emperors that preceded him.
Donald T. Ariel, head curator of the coin department at the IAA, further explained the possible historical context of this Roman coin found in distant Israel –
The coin may reflect the presence of the Roman army in the region some 2,000 years ago – possibly in the context of activity against Bar Kochba supporters [who unsuccessfully rebelled circa 132-136 AD] in the Galilee – but it is very difficult to determine that on the basis of a single coin. Historical sources describing the period note that some Roman soldiers were paid a high salary of three gold coins, the equivalent of 75 silver coins, each payday. Because of their high monetary value soldiers were unable to purchase goods in the market with gold coins, as the merchants could not provide change for them.
While the bronze and silver coins of Emperor Trajan are common in the country, his gold coins are extremely rare. So far, only two other gold coins of this emperor have been registered in the State Treasures, one from Givat Shaul near Jerusalem, and the other from the Kiryat Gat region and the details on both of them are different to those that appear on the rare coin that Laurie found.
Intriguingly enough, it was Trajan’s period that coincided with the increase of pay for the Roman legionaries. This was in stark contrast to the preceding century when a basic legionary was paid 900 sesterces per year (paid in three installments), an amount that was kept fixed from 6 AD – 80 AD, in spite of rising inflation.