Discovery of Abbasid and Fatimid gold coins in jug in Old Jerusalem reflect shifting political power of the 2 dynasties

“The profile of the coins found in the juglet are a near perfect reflection of the historical events. This is a time of great political change as control of Israel shifts from the Sunni Abbasid caliphate, which sits in Baghdad, Iraq, to ​​its Shiite rivals, the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa.” — Robert Cole

[The following compiled piece includes material released by the Israel Antiques Authority. Also, the website livescience has prepared a short video highlighting the discovery of the Abbasid and Fatimid coins. Please watch the video HERE — Ed.]

In 2015, in a post entitled Sea of Gold, Simerg provided a link to a special on-line exhibit about the discovery by a group of divers of a hoard of Fatimid gold dinars lying on the seabed in the ancient harbor in Caesarea National Park. The divers alerted marine archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who conducted a salvage excavation at the site and recovered more than 2,580 Fatimid coins of pure (24 karat) gold weighing a total of 7.5 kg.

The IAA then noted as follows: “The coins are of the finest 24-karat gold (96-99% pure gold). They lay on the sea-bed for a 1000 years but required almost no cleaning, as pure gold cannot corrode. Particularly important for the Fatimid rulers, who were Shi’ites, is the mention of Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law considered by the Shi’a as the first Imam after Muhammad, as ‘God’s intimate’. Also, the name of the mint and the date of issue appear on these coins, making them extremely important historical documents.”

Just over a month ago, on November 9 2020, IAA archaeologists reported another very significant find at a site where an elevator is being built at the Old City of Jerusalem in the Jewish quarter to make the Western Wall more accessible.

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Excavation of a jug containing 4 coins from the Abbasid and Fatimid periods
The juglet and the four gold coins found recently in Old Jerusalem. Photo: Dafna Gazit / Israel Antiquities Authority.

David Gellman, the director of the excavation observed, “We seem to have found an ancient savings bank!” He was actually referring to a small pottery urn containing four pure gold coins more than a thousand years old that was found by the inspector of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Yevgenia Kapil, during preliminary work that was carried out at the site during the holidays. Gellman says that when he emptied the jug a few weeks later, the four glittering gold coins along with sand were washed into his hands. This was the first time that Gellman, as an archaeologist, had discovered gold and he was immensely excited by the discovery.

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spot where the gold-filled jug was found opposite the Western Wall Plaza. Photo: Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority.
Excavation director David Gellman with the Israel Antiquities Authority points to the spot where the gold-filled jug was found opposite the Western Wall Plaza in Old Jerusalem. Photo: Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority.

Dr. Robert Cole, an expert on coins at the IAA, noted as follows about the four coins: “The coins were preserved in excellent condition and could be read immediately even without being cleaned. The profile of the coins found in the juglet are a near perfect reflection of the historical events. The coins date to a relatively brief period, from the late 940s to the 970s CE.  This is a time of great political change as control of Israel shifts from the Sunni Abbasid caliphate, which sits in Baghdad, Iraq, to ​​its Shiite rivals, the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa, which in those days conquered Egypt, Syria and Israel. These historical events are reflected almost perfectly in the distribution of the coins discovered in the jug: two gold dinars were minted in Ramla, under the rule of the Caliph Matia (946 – 974 CE) and the governor on his behalf, Abu al-Qassem ibn al-Ihshid Onuhar (946 – 961 CE). The other two gold coins were minted in Cairo, by the Fatimid rulers al-Mu’iz (953 – 975 CE), and his successor — al-Aziz (975 – 996 CE).”

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Examination of coins unearthed in Jerusalem
IAA coin expert Robert Kool examines one of the gold coins found in a small pottery urn. The coins were preserved in excellent condition and could be read immediately even without being cleaned. Photo: Shai Halevi / Israel Antiquities Authority.

He also explained that “the four gold dinars was a considerable sum of money for most of the population, who lived under difficult conditions at the time. It was equal to the monthly salary of a minor official, or four months’ salary for a common laborer.” This is the first time in fifty years that gold coins from the Fatimid period have been discovered in Jerusalem’s Old City. The previous find of 5 coins and jewellery hoards from the Fatimid period took place after the Six Day War south of the Temple Mount, not far from the recent new discovery.

Date posted: December 22, 2020.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wishes His Highness the Aga Khan Salgirah Mubarak and thanks him for his outstanding leadership and bringing people together

December 13, 2020
Ottawa, Ontario

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, issued the following statement marking the birthday of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan:

“Today, we join Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims in Canada and around the world to celebrate the 84th birthday of their spiritual leader, His Highness the Aga Khan.

“A global humanitarian, the Aga Khan has made it his mission to build a better, more peaceful world. In a year where we have seen inequalities compounded by the effects of a global pandemic, His Highness has continued to work to help reduce poverty, advance gender equality, and improve health care and education. Whether through his Global Centre for Pluralism in Canada or the Aga Khan Development Network, his tireless efforts have helped make Canada, and the world, more inclusive. 

“The Aga Khan shares many of the values Canadians hold dear, including kindness, compassion, and respect for diversity. In a world often fraught with division, His Highness has continually worked to bring people together. His unwavering dedication to helping others is an inspiration to us all. For these reasons, he was named an honorary Canadian citizen and invested as an honorary Companion of the Order of Canada.

“Today, Sophie and I thank the Aga Khan for his outstanding leadership. We wish him continued health and happiness on this special day and for years to come.

“Salgirah Khushiali Mubarak!”

Date posted: December 14, 2020.

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Featured photo at top of this post: His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are seen engaged in a warm conversation during their meeting at Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. Photo: © Jean-Marc Carisse.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.