Early Counterfeit Silver Coin

An extensive survey was conducted in preparation for the upcoming Israel-Germany joint excavation at Tel Azekah in the Elah valley this summer. During the survey, among the many pottery shards, a silver Athenian Tetradrachmon coin which was used as universal currency in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE (very much like the dollar or the euro today) was found.

Athenian Tetra Drachma coin, courtesy of IAA

The diameter of the coin is 23 mm, and it is fairly heavy for its size. One side of the coin depicts the profile of Athena, the patron goddess of Athens, and the other depicts an owl, the goddess’ symbol. On closer examination it turns out that the core of the coin is made of bronze which has been covered with silver in order to give the illusion that it is pure silver, in other words what we have here is an early example of a counterfeit coin!

The excavation is an exciting development because digging Azekah, a site that was a major Judahite fortress in the late 8th century, will provide us with new data and help advance new theories about the rise and fall of the Levantine territorial kingdoms of the Biblical Period. This has been the  focus of hot debate. How much archaeological and historical evidence do we have that Judah was a full blown state before the 9th century, in the time of King David and Solomon? See my article on the House of David Stele uncovered in the excavations at Tel Dan. More recent excavations by Garfinkel at Khirbet Qeiyafa has shed some light on this question, demonstrating the slow and gradual process of the monarchy and its expansion from the hill country of Jerusalem to the much more fertile lowlands. BTW, I do a great tour of Khirbet Qeiyafa, a Judean walled town identified as Biblical Shaarayim.

Finding a coin in an archaeological strata enables us to date that layer. If you’re interested in coins check out my post on other coins found in archaeological excavations.

The excavation at Tel Azekah begins July 15th. I’m going to check out working at the dig. Do you want to join me?

6 thoughts on “Early Counterfeit Silver Coin

  1. Aristotelis Koskinas, Tourist Guide

    Extremely interesting. Thanks for posting.
    May I be permitted to point out a minor error: a tetradrachmon (meaning four drachmas) is a composite word made up of tetra (four) and drachma (the currency) but it is written as one word. Grammatically, it has an irregular plural ending in -a, following the same rule as phenomenon-phenomena.

  2. Pingback: Site Map | Israel Tours | Israel Tour Guide

  3. Pingback: Silver shekel coins | Israel Tour Guide | Israel Tours

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