Archaeologists in Israel have made an exciting discovery that provides new information about one of the earliest uses of coins in the region. During an excavation of a site from the First Temple period in the Judean hills, workers uncovered some uncommon evidence of trading from the distant past.

The most notable find was an extremely rare silver coin dated to the Persian period between the 6th-5th centuries BC. Only about a half dozen of these coins have been found in other archaeological digs in Israel.

The coin was minted when the use of coins was just beginning to emerge. Coins replaced the previous practice of weighing pieces of silver to conduct business transactions.

Another early evidence of trade was a stone weight used to measure valuable goods like metals, spices and other products. Known as a shekel weight, it was shaped like a dome and had hieroglyphic markings indicating its use for weighing amounts equivalent to a shekel, a standard unit of measurement in ancient Judah.

At 11 grams, it closely matches what would have been considered a standard shekel weight in the region at that time.

The site where these objects were found was located in the rural area of the Kingdom of Judah, with its capital at Jerusalem. People had lived there during the reigns of kings Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon and Josiah in the 7th century BC.

Archaeologists uncovered a typical “four room house” structure from that era. Finding the shekel weight on the floor of one room provides early evidence that trade occurred even in homes at this settlement near the kingdom’s heartland.

While coins had begun circulating internationally by the 6th century BC, the fact that this particular silver coin was broken in half suggests it may have still been used more as weighed pieces of metal than coins themselves by the 4th century BC. Nevertheless, its rare survival offers a glimpse into the transition period when monetary exchange started replacing direct bartering.

Discoveries like these rare coin and ancient weight shed light on everyday life and commerce long ago.


Israel Antiquities Authority

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