An Israeli hiker has found a very rare and precious gold coin bearing the face of Emperor Augustin and dating from 107 AD.
Laurie Rimon had been travelling with a group to visit an archaeological site in Galilee, a mountainous region in the north of Israel, when she suddenly noticed a shiny object on the ground, half hidden in the grass. Picking it up, she was surprised to discover a large golden coin, dating from an ancient era.
After a careful analysis of the artefact, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that Rimon had discovered an original gold coin minted under Emperor Trajan.
On one side, it shows his name engraved next to symbols of the Roman legions, while one the other, a portrait of the emperor Augustus decorates it.
Second coin ever found
Only a single other gold coin of this kind has ever been found before. It is on display at the British Museum. Both coins were part of a nostalgia series minted on Trajan's orders, and dedicated to Roman emperors that came before him.
As the first Roman Empire, Augustus would naturally have been a model for Trajan. Great nephew and adoptive son of Julius Caesar, Augustus led Rome during its chaotic transition from a Republic to an Empire, ruling as its Emperor between 27 BCE and 14 AD.
Archaeologists marvel at the importance of the discovery, because generic gold coins are rare finds, so finding one that belongs to a specific series is even more of a surprise.
"While the bronze and silver coins of Emperor Trajan are common in the country, his gold coins are extremely rare. So far, only two other gold coins of this emperor have been registered in the State Treasures, one from Giv'at Shaul near Jerusalem, and the other from the Qiryat Gat region and the details on both of them are different to those that appear on the rare coin that Laurie found", says Dr Donald T Ariel, head curator of the coin department at the Israel Antiquities Authority.
This particular coin may have belonged to a Roman soldier. "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 pay day. 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", Ariel says.
Therefore, the coin found in Galilee could provide historians with some form of evidence of Roman military campaigns in the area 2,000 years ago, although there is no way to be certain with a single artefact.
Regardless of what the story behind the coin may be, the Israel Antiquities Authority say it will award Laurie Rimon a certificate of appreciation for her civic behaviour, when she decided not to keep the coin for herself.