$500,000 in Crusader Gold Coins Found
- Gold found in the Roman-Byzantine fortress of Apollonia.
A pot of gold from the Crusades worth up to $500,000 has been found buried in an ancient Roman fortress in Israel.
The coins were buried by Christian soldiers of the order of the Knights Hospitalier as the Crusaders faced an unstoppable attack by a huge Muslim army.
The knights were annihilated in April 1265.
The coins - worth a fortune even in 1265 when they were thought to have been buried - were deliberately hidden inside a broken jug to prevent them being discovered.
The fortress was destroyed in April 1265 by forces of Mamluks who overwhelmed the Crusaders - and the treasure only survived due to the quick thinking of one of the defenders.
'It was in a small juglet, and it was partly broken,' Oren Tal of the University of Tel Aviv told Fox News.
'The idea was to put something broken in the ground and fill it with sand, in order to hide the gold coins within. If by chance somebody were to find the juglet, he won’t excavate it, he won’t look inside it to find the gold coins. Once we started to sift it, the gold came out.'
The Roman fortress in Apollonia National Park has yielded a huge number of archaeological treasures - but scientists excavating layer from the thirteenth century were stunned to unearth a literal pot of gold.
The clay container had more than 100 gold dinals from the time when the Crusaders occupied the fortress, originally built by the Romans.
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The joint team from Tel Aviv University and Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority were working at Apollonia National Park, an ancient Roman settlement on the coast used by the Crusaders between 1241 and 1265, when they literally found a pot of gold.
“All in all, we found some 108 dinals and quarter dinars, which makes it one of the largest gold coin hoards discovered in a medieval site in the land of Israel,” said Prof. Oren Tal, chairman of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology.
The Christian order of the Knights Hospitaller had taken up residence in the castle in Apollonia; it was one of their most important fortresses in the area. The hoard of coins was buried on the eve of the site's downfall after a long siege by a large and well-prepared Muslim army.
The hoard of coins themselves -- found on June 21, 2012, by Mati Johananoff, a student of TAU Department of Archaeology -- date to the times of the Fatimid empire, which dominated northern Africa and parts of the Middle East at the time. Tal estimates their date to the 10th and 11th centuries, although they were circulated in the 13th century.
“Some were minted some 250 to 300 years before they were used by the Hospitaller knights,” he explained. The coins are covered in icons and inscriptions: the names and legends of local sultans, Tal said, as well as blessings.
Some also bear a date, and even a mint mark, a code that indicates where it was minted, whether Alexandria, Tripoli, or another ancient mint.
“Fatimid coins are very difficult to study because they are so informative,” Tal told FoxNews.com. “The legends are very long, the letters are sometimes difficult to decipher.”
The coins are clearly of great value, both historically and intrinsically, though putting a price tag on them is no easy feat: Value is a flexible thing, Tal explained. Israeli newspaper Haaretz pegged the find at $100,000. Tal noted that Fatimid dinars sell for $3,000 to $5,000 apiece, meaning the stash could be worth closer to half a million.
(UK Daily Mail)
|A Mamluk Warrior
The town was settled by Phoenicians in the 6th or 5th century BC, and named Arshuf after Resheph, the Canaanite god of fertility and the underworld. It was then a part of the Persian Empire and governed from Sidon. Phoenicians of Arshuf produced precious purple dye, derived from murex mollusks, which they exported to the Aegean.
During the Hellenistic period it was an anchorage town, ruled by Seleucids and renamed Apollonia, as the Greeks identified Reshef with Apollo.
Under Roman rule, the size of the town increased. It was an important settlement between Jaffa and Caesarea along Via Maris, the coastal road. In 113 AD, Apollonia was destroyed partially by an earthquake, but recovered quickly. The harbor was built, and trade with Italy and North Africa developed.
During the Byzantine period, the town extended to cover an area of 70 acres. In the 5th and 6th century AD it was the second largest city in Sharon valley, after Caesarea, populated by Christian and Samaritans, having an elaborate church and a prosperous glass industry.
In 640 AD, the town was captured by Muslims, and the Semitic name Arsuf was restored. The town's area decreased to about 22 acres and, for the first time, it was surrounded by a fortified wall with buttresses, to resist the constant attacks of Byzantine fleets from the sea. Large marketplaces appeared, and pottery production developed. In 809 AD, following the death of Harun al-Rashid, the local Samaritan community was destroyed and their synagogue ruined.
In 1101 Arsuf fell to a Crusader army led by Baldwin I of Jerusalem. The Crusaders, who called it Arsur, rebuilt the city's walls and created the Lordship of Arsur in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1187 Arsuf was captured by the Muslims, but fell again to the Crusaders on September 7, 1191 after a battle between Richard I of England and Saladin.
John of Ibelin, Lord of Beirut (1177—1236) became Lord of Arsuf in 1207 when he married Melisende of Arsuf (born c.1170). Their son John of Arsuf (c.1211—1258) inherited the title. The title then passed to John of Arsuf's eldest son Balian of Arsuf (1239—1277). He built new walls, the big fortress and new harbor (1241). From 1261, the city was ruled by the Knights Hospitaller.
In 1265 sultan Baibars, ruler of the Mamluks, captured Arsur, after 40 days of siege. The Mamluks razed the city walls and the fortress to their foundations, fearing a return of the Crusaders. The destruction was so complete that the site was abandoned. In 1596, Ottoman tax registers recorded a village there with 22 families and 4 bachelors and later a village called al-Haram existed adjacent to the ruins until it was depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. (Wikipedia)
|Apollonia National Park
|The ruined Crusader fortress
|Mini reconstruction of the fortress.
|Called The Burnt Room’ Crusaders shot ballista stones & arrows at the Mameluke soldiers (1291), as they did from other rooms that faced the bridgehead and the ‘dry moat’