Liel Krutokop was having fun playing archaeologist for a day. The 11-year-old girl was volunteering with her family at Emek Tzurim National Park in Jerusalem, sifting through dirt and looking for artifacts.
Examining the very first bucket she’d chosen, Krutokop spotted something round. Wiping away the dust, she could tell that she’d stumbled onto something important. As Rossella Tercatin reports for the Jerusalem Post, the Petah Tikva resident had found a rare, 2,000-year-old silver coin with ancient Hebrew inscriptions reading “Israeli shekel” and “Holy Jerusalem.”
“I thought there must be simple coins in the buckets, but I did not think I would find a coin myself, and certainly not such a rare coin from pure silver,” says Krutokop in a statement, per a translation by the Jerusalem Post.
Recovered from dirt collected in the neighboring City of David National Park, the coin dates to the first-century C.E. Great Revolt, which found the people of Judea rebelling against the Roman Empire. It is marked on one side with a cup and the letters “shin” and “bet,” indicating it was minted during the second year of the uprising (67 or 68 C.E.), reports Shira Hanau for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).
“This is a rare find, since out of many thousands of coins discovered to date in archaeological excavations, only about 30 coins are coins made of silver, from the period of the Great Revolt,” says Robert Kool, who heads the coin department at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), in the statement.
According to Graham Land of History Hit, the Great Revolt broke out in 66 C.E., around a century after the Roman occupation of Israel began in 63 B.C.E. Faced with increasingly corrupt, punitive Roman rule, the Jewish people rebelled, enjoying initial success that culminated in the recapture of Jerusalem. The insurgency ended in 70 C.E., when Roman soldiers retook Jerusalem and destroyed the famed Second Temple.
Yori Yalon of Israel Hayom writes that Kool and other experts say the coin may have been minted by the temple’s high priest out of high-grade silver stored at the religious site. Temple priests supported the Great Revolt, which, along with the second-century Bar Kokhba revolt, is considered one of the “greatest tragedies to befall the Jewish people before the Holocaust,” per History Hit. Historians estimate that as many as one million Jews died during the Great Revolt, notes the Jewish Virtual Library.
The coin was found in dirt excavated along what is known as the “Pilgrimage Road”—Jerusalem’s main street during the Second Temple period, which spanned roughly 516 B.C.E. to 70 C.E. Thousands of pilgrims on their way to the holy site walked along the street, which featured many shops, according to the Times of Israel.
“[There was] very extensive trade [along the road],” says excavation leader Ari Levy in the statement. “This is evidenced by the many weights and bronze coins we found here. But to find a rebel coin made of pure silver, it is definitely special and exciting.”
Burgeoning archaeologist Krutokop was extremely excited to find the coin. She thanked a family member who made it possible for her to unearth this discovery of a lifetime.
“I was lucky to find it, but I also want to say thank you to my sister for choosing the bucket we filtered,” says Krutokop in the statement. “If she had not chosen this particular bucket, I probably would not have found the coin.”