Golden Coin Found at Tel Kedesh

In an article published in the May/June 2012 issue of Archaeology, Andrea Berlin, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University and Sharon Herbert, professor of Archaeology at the University of Michigan present a report of their decade long excavation at Tel Kedesh, a site located in the Upper Galilee region of Israel.

The site of Tel Kedesh served as a border between the Canaanites and the Israelites in biblical times. Tel Kedesh was allotted to the tribe of Naphtali (Josh. 19:37) and was set apart to be a Levitical city (Josh. 21:32) and a city of refuge (Josh. 20:7).  During the wars of conquest, Joshua defeated the king of Kedesh (Josh. 12:22).

According to the book of Judges, Barak was from Kedesh in Naphtali (Judg. 4:6). It was also at Kedesh that Deborah and Barak assembled the army of Israel to fight against Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army (Judg. 4:9).

Berlin and Herbert describe some of the findings at the site:

Several special finds reflect the character of the culture that inhabited the region at the time. These include a beautifully carved green jasper scarab with a helmeted oriental head (right); two small conical glass stamp seals, both likely worn as amulets, each with a version of the Master of Animals motif long popular in the Near East; and, finally, a clay bulla that had been stamped by a seal whose Neo-Babylonian style and design appear on many seals in a late fifth-century B.C. commercial archive discovered in the Mesopotamian city of Nippur in 1893. Our current hypothesis is that the Persian-period building belonged to well-connected officials from Tyre and that it functioned as both an agricultural depot and an impressive marker of territory. The discovery of a substantial Phoenician foothold in inland Upper Galilee provides a rare opportunity to consider native life under imperial Persian rule. It also has implications for understanding the biblical authors of this era, especially the work of the Chronicler, a writer who lived in the fifth century B.C. In his retelling of the history of the Jewish people, the Chronicler also frequently reframed relationships, especially those between the kings of Judah and the kings of Phoenicia, always to the advantage of Judah. He may have been trying to imagine away the presence of this enormous, Phoenician-administered building deep within territory that earlier biblical texts identify as Israelite.

One of the most significant findings at Tel Kedesh was the mnaieion, “a one-mina coin, equivalent to 100 silver drachmas, or a mina of silver of the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy V, struck in the year 191–190 B.C. at the imperial mint of Kition.”


Picture: This gold coin was found near the wall of one of the grain storage rooms.

Courtesy:  Sharon Herbert



According to Berlin and Herbert, the discovery of this golden coin is unique because “the mnaieion is the largest gold coin ever found in Israel and only the second example of this issue found anywhere.”

To read the article in its entirety, visit Archaeology online.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary



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