The buried coins were revealed beneath the ruins of a building that was part of a large complex which apparently served Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.
A cache of nine bronze coins from the end of the Byzantine period (7th c. CE) was discovered in salvage excavations that the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted as part of widening Highway 1, near En Hemed, financed by the Netivei Israel Company.
During the course of the excavations, which were carried out last June, a large two story structure and an adjacent built, complex winepress were exposed. According to Annette Landes-Nagar, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The hoard was found amongst large stones that had collapsed alongside the building. It seems that during a time of danger the owner of the hoard placed the coins in a cloth purse that he concealed inside a hidden niche in the wall. He probably hoped to go back and collect it, but today we know that he was unable to do so”.
The coins bear the images of three important Byzantine emperors: Justinian (483-565 AD), Maurice (539-602 CE) and Phocas (547-610 CE). They were struck at three different mints, Constantinople, Antioch, and Nicomedia, all of which are located in what is today Turkey. An image of the emperor wearing military garb and carrying crosses is depicted on the obverse of the coins, while the reverse indicates the coin’s denomination and is usually inscribed with the letter M.
According to Landes-Nagar, “The hoard indicates the end of the site. The historical background to its having been hidden is apparently related to the Sassanid Persian invasion that occurred in 614 CE. This invasion, was one of the factors that culminated in the end of Byzantine rule in the Land of Israel”.
Fearing an invasion and imminent danger, the residents of the site buried their money against the wall hoping to return home at the end of the disturbances, which did not happen. The site was abandoned and destroyed, and ultimately covered over and incorporated in the agricultural terraces that characterize the region.
The building and the winepress beside it belong to a larger site that extends across Highway 1, and which was exposed on the other side of the road about a year ago. A Byzantine church was revealed in that part of the excavation. The investigation of the site raised the hypothesis that this is a settlement called Einbikumakube whose name was preserved in that of the neighboring Arab village of Beit Naquba. This site is situated alongside a main road leading from the coastal plain to Jerusalem. Settlements and way stations, some of which were near flowing springs, developed next to the road that was used by Christian pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem.
According to Amit Shadman, the district archaeologist for Judah, “The Israel Antiquities Authority and Netivei Israel are working together to conserve the site as a landmark in the scenery alongside Highway No. 1.”