Ancient Israelite coin from 132 AD found in desert during excavation

Coin with ancient Hebrew writing, containing the words 'Eleazar HaCohen' imprinted on it, was found during a recent excavation in the Judean desert, casting some archeological light on the Bar-Kokhba era

A rare coin from the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt, featuring the name "Eleazar the Priest" ("Eleazar HaCohen") and dating back to the first year of the revolt (132 CE), was uncovered in the Mazuq Ha-he'teqim Nature Reserve in the Judean Desert. Alongside it, three additional coins from the revolt period were found, bearing the name "Shimon."
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The rare coin was discovered as part of a survey conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, in collaboration with the Ministry of Heritage and an archaeology officer from the Civil Administration, to explore the caves in the Judean Desert and safeguard the ancient treasures from looters.
The Antiquities Authority points out that there are various hypotheses regarding the identity of Eleazar the Priest depicted on the coin. One hypothesis suggests that he may be Rabbi Elazar HaModa'i, a contemporary of Rabbi Akiva and a disciple of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. Rabbi Elazar HaModa'i likely played a significant religious role during the Bar Kokhba revolt and resided in Beitar, the rebellion's headquarters.
According to the Talmudic texts, Rabbi Elazar HaModa'i met his death in Beitar, presumably during the revolt.
The bronze coin depicts a palm tree on one side, with the inscription "Eleazar the Priest" in ancient Hebrew script appearing on both sides of the tree. On the other side of the coin, there is a cluster of grapes, surrounded by the inscription "One year of the redemption of Israel" in ancient Hebrew script.
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המטבע הנדיר
המטבע הנדיר
Hebrew writing visible
(Photo: Antiquities Authority)
Since 2017, the Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority has been conducting systematic surveys in the Judean Desert to reach valuable findings before they fall into the hands of looters. Notable discoveries made during these surveys include fragments of the Twelve Minor Prophets Scroll, iron swords from the Roman era, and the world's oldest intact basket, among others.
"We invite the general public to join us in the upcoming excavation season in March and help preserve the archaeological findings in the Judean Desert that are at risk of looting," said Eli Escusido, director of the Antiquities Authority. "The public is encouraged to show their enthusiasm and commitment by volunteering and participating in archaeological excavations in the Ma'ale Beitar caves in the Darga Stream, alongside the Antiquities Authority's archaeology team. The desert excavations never fail to surprise us, and we hope to uncover significant discoveries this year as well."
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