Thursday, August 12, 2010

Uncovered: Heaviest Gold Coin Ever Found in Israel

As the 2010 archaeology season comes to an end, news of significant finds are beginning to trickle out. Just this week the discovery of a gold coin in Israel dating from about 200 BCE was found. It looks like this may be the heaviest coin ever discovered in Israel and may help to shed some light on the Ptolemaic rulers who controlled Syro-Palaistine during that period.

Coins are an important find for archaeologist. As with our own money, we can learn much about a people and their culture. The imagery and inscriptions on money indicates what a nation thinks about itself and its leaders.

The recently discovered coin features the image of a woman on the front believed to be Queen Arsinoe II Philadelphus. On the back are two overlapping cornucopiae. This combination of the Queen and cornucopiae might suggest that this woman's rule was recognized for providing economic abundance. The archaeologist suggests that the coin was not intended for general circulation, but was used as part of a festival honoring the queen. Queen Arsinoe was deified in her lifetime, so a special coin in her honor would make sense.

This discovery is interesting in light of the spots we have be doing on women in the life of the apostle Paul. The deification and honoring of a woman, including the minting of a coin, demonstrates that there were powerful and respected women in antiquity. Granted, they were the minority, but we can add this to the numerous other examples of successful women in antiquity whose memory has been passed on to us by the ancients.


  1. John, an interesting post indeed. In your view is there a qualitative difference in the ancient world when it comes to deifying and honoring women as opposed to men? I suppose what I am asking is does the deification of men look different from the deification of women?

  2. Alan,

    That is a good question. I have not thought of it that way. I think women were deified less frequently when compared to men, but the deck was always stacked against them.In the case of this queen, it seems that her popularity and benevolence may have led to her becoming a god. Of course, she was still alive when this happened, so you wonder whose idea it was. A bit of the Caligula syndrome perhaps?