Archeological Discoveries

Rare Roman Gold Coin Minted by Trajan Found

1,900-year-old coin celebrates Roman Emperor Augustus

On a recent hike with her friends in eastern Galilee in Israel, Laurie Rimon noticed something shiny in the grass. With her eagle eyes, she had spotted what turned out to be a rare 1,900-year-old Roman gold coin minted by an emperor.

The Roman gold coin was studied by Danny Syon, a senior numismatist at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).


This Roman gold coin was minted by Emperor Trajan in the early second century C.E. to commemorate Augustus, the first emperor of Rome. Photo: Reverse: Samuel Magal, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority. Obverse: Shai Halevy, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority.

The reverse of the coin is decorated with a legionary eagle flanked by two military standards—symbols of the Roman army—and bears the name of Roman emperor Trajan, who reigned from 98 to 117 C.E. A portrait of a man is depicted on the obverse—but it’s not Trajan. As the inscription, “Divus Augustus,” tells us, the portrait is that of the deified Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire (r. 27 B.C.E.–14 C.E.).

In an email to Bible History Daily, Nathan T. Elkins, Assistant Professor of Art History at Baylor University, explained the significance of the Roman gold coin found in Galilee:

“This Trajanic coin celebrating the deified Augustus is part of a much larger series of coins struck under Trajan that celebrated Roman Republican values and ideals and, in addition, well-remembered emperors of Rome’s past, such as Augustus, Claudius and Vespasian. These are called the ‘restoration coins.’ These coins suggested that Trajan, the Optimus Princeps (“the best ruler”), was the inheritor of Roman Republican qualities and depicted him as the successor of Rome’s great and noble emperors. The occasion for the striking of the coins may have been the 10th anniversary of the first Dacian triumph.”

Recent scholarship dates these coins no earlier than 112/113 C.E. and not later than about 113/114 C.E.”1

“The coin [found in Galilee] may reflect the presence of the Roman army in the region some 2,000 years ago—possibly in the context of activity against Bar-Kokhba supporters in the Galilee—but it is very difficult to determine that on the basis of a single coin,” said Donald T. Ariel, head curator of the coin department at the IAA, in the IAA press release.

“Historical sources describing the period note that some Roman soldiers were paid a high salary of three gold coins, the equivalent of 75 silver coins, each payday,” Ariel added. “Because of their high monetary value, soldiers were unable to purchase goods in the market with gold coins, as the merchants could not provide change for them.”

The first Roman emperor from the provinces, Trajan is best remembered for his expansions in the East, his conquest of Dacia (in modern Romania), his war against the Parthians and his public works in Rome, including the Markets of Trajan, the Forum of Trajan and the Column of Trajan.



3,400-year-old Canaanite Fort to Be Incorporated Into High-rise

Ancient Canaanite citadel discovered in the middle of the Nahariya, which had been burned down four times, will be incorporated into the basement.

A 3,400-year-old Canaanite fort discovered in the heart of the modern Israeli city of Nahariya will be incorporated into a residential high-rise to be built at the spot.

The Bronze Age citadel apparently served as an administrative center serving Mediterranean mariners, stated the Israel Antiquities Authority. It had been destroyed at least four times by fire and was rebuilt each time, says the IAA.

Among the artifacts discovered in the ruined citadel’s rooms are ceramic figurines with human and animal forms, bronze weapons, and pottery vessels that hadn’t been made locally – they had been imported. That is further testimony to the extensive trading relations among the peoples around the Mediterranean Sea basin


Ancient Lullabies in Mesopotamia

How ancient Near Eastern magicians soothed crying infants


In the Babylonian flood story Epic of Atrahasis, infant mortality—a sad but common problem in antiquity—was the gods’ solution to overpopulation. To prevent infant cries from disturbing the gods, ancient lullabies were used to soothe babies. Pictured here is a tablet containing the Epic of Atrahasis from the British Museum. Photo: Courtesy British Museum via CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

Parents worldwide and through the ages have longed for a magical cure for their crying babies. David Bosworth, Catholic University Associate Professor of Old Testament, suggests that the ancient Mesopotamians had such spells thousands of years ago. In his Archaeological Views column “Magical Cures for Crying Infants” in the March/April 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Bosworth explores the contents of these magical ancient lullabies and the reasons why they were effective.Ancient Near Eastern magicians likely used maternal wisdom to develop baby incantations. According to some scholars, these incantations may have been based off of the ancient lullabies Mesopotamian mothers sang to their babies to quiet them down at night.

“Lullabies are ‘anonymous’ texts in the sense that their creators are no longer known, and ritual experts might have modified existing lullabies to suit their needs,” Bosworth explains. “Across cultures, mothers sing to their infants in part because infants can be soothed by song (as well as touch and rhythmic rocking, which often accompanies such singing).”




David Bosworth

The mother’s singing, rocking and touching provided the baby with a sense of calm and security (at least if hunger or a dirty diaper were not the root cause). Bosworth argues that Mesopotamian magicians adopted these ancient lullabies, wrote them down and sold them to parents who could afford to pay. References to wet-nurses and nannies imply the wealth of some clients, as seen in this incantation:

You, baby, newborn human: you have now emerged, you have now seen the sun, the light. Why in the womb of your mother did you not treat her like this? Instead of treating your father well and allowing your mother to lead a normal life, you have terrified the nanny and kept the wet-nurse awake. With your noise, the household god is no longer sleeping, the household goddess cannot grab sleep.1

Like many modern lullabies, ancient lullabies paired care–evidenced by the very act of performing a lullaby–with a touch of darkness. Parents who are frustrated and tired can feel resentment toward a crying child, even in the midst of love and concern. This dichotomy is also present in ancient baby incantations. When it comes to child-rearing, the temporal distance is minimal.

The ancient Mesopotamians appealed to some gods to quiet babies out of fear that other gods would turn their wrath on the infants for their noisy tears. Ancient parents—as modern ones—might have been afraid that infant crying was indicative of a serious medical issue or unexplained distress. High infant mortality was, after all, common in antiquity.

“The relief offered by the magician was not only a quiet baby, but less anxious parents,” Bosworth explains of ancient Mesopotamian baby incantations. “Even if the ritual did not work, it could provide parents with the sense that they had done all they could to quiet their baby and ward off disease.”