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21 ancient coins recovered from home of alleged antiquities thief in East Jerusalem

Suspect was arrested for illegally excavating the coins, according to Israel Antiquities Authority

Ancient coins, including one from the reign of the last Jewish king, Antigonus II Mattathias, that have been recovered from an alleged thief in East Jerusalem. (Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority)

A resident of East Jerusalem was arrested on Wednesday for illegally excavating 21 ancient coins from different time periods in Jerusalem’s history, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The IAA announced the recovery of the treasured coins, which reportedly ranged from the time of the Romans to the Muslim period.

Jerusalem District police arrested the suspect, a man in his 30s, on suspicion of theft, illegally possessing archaeological artifacts and attempting to sell them. The suspect reportedly searched for the archaeological artifacts at different sites in Israel using a metal detector.

One of the coins dates back to the Hasmonean era and depicts King Antigonus II Mattathias, the very last Jewish monarch to rule the land of Israel, 40 B.C.E. to 37 B.C.E. the land of Israel. The king helped the Jewish fight against the Romans, according to Antiquities Authority expert Dr. Gabriela Bichovsky.

“Mattathias minted three types of bronze coins during his reign. High value, medium value, and low value,” Bichovsky said in a statement. “This coin is of medium value. It's rarer than the higher value one, which has two cornucopias instead of just one.”

An ancient coin from the reign of the last Jewish king, Antigonus II Mattathias that has been recovered from an alleged thief in East Jerusalem. (Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority)

Of all the Hasmonean coins, the ones of Mattathias are the rarest and most special because of the unique way they were made, which makes them appear as if two coins were stuck to each other.

The fact that the coin was not found at the original archaeological site but in the home of the thief, however, makes it more difficult to understand the history of it.

“Removing the coin from the archaeological site where it was found limits our ability to understand the historical puzzle surrounding it,” Antiquities Authority Dir.-Gen. Eli Escozido said.

The IAA Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit leads an extensive operation to stop the ongoing illegal trade of archaeological artifacts around the country.

In May 2022, a man from central Israel was suspected of smuggling valuable ancient coins in one of the largest illegal trade busts in Israeli history.

Israel's Antiquities Law of 1978 was established to eliminate the problem of illegal activities with artifacts. The law describes the rights and obligations regarding the discovery and ownership of ancient coins or other antiquities in Israel, as well as the sale or export of these antiquities, which carries the punishment of a fine and two-year term in prison.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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