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CULTURE & HERITAGE - Culture & History

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Rich History Unearthed in Jerusalem: Gold Treasure With Jewish Menorah Found Near Temple Mount

Archaeological digs on the Ophel have occurred on and off since the middle of the 19th century. But only in recent years have royal structures been uncovered in Jerusalem that closely correlate to the biblical descriptions of King Solomon's massive building projects in the books of Kings and Chronicles.
In the most recent phase of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ophel excavations, this past summer, Eilat Mazar and her team set out to uncover more remains from the Solomonic period–and they did. But no one expected the most stunning discovery of all to come in the first week of the dig, after excavators had barely broken through the surface of a new area.

There, just a few centimeters beneath modern debris, they began to expose a hoard of rare gold coins, silver and gold jewelry. And among these treasures was a real archaeological gem: a large gold medallion ornamented with a menorah, the iconic Jewish symbol of a seven-branched candlestick.
"This happens only once in a lifetime," said Dr. Mazar.
This fantastic collection was discovered just 50 meters south of the Temple Mount, inside a Byzantine structure that dates back to the sixth century C.E. It had most likely been carefully packed and hidden by a prominent group of Jews during the Persian conquest of Jerusalem at the beginning of the seventh century.
Just like the massive stones King Solomon used to build his royal complex, this newly discovered treasure, after being buried for 14 centuries, revives a riveting and powerful testimony from a long-forgotten chapter in the 3,000-year-old history of Jewish Jerusalem.

A Fantastic Find

Why Was It Left Behind?

Historical circumstances give us clues as to why such a treasure would have been left in Jerusalem.
After the city fell under Persian control, Jews flocked to Jerusalem, intent on returning and rebuilding their homeland. However, history recounts that as the Persians' power waned, so did their support for the Jewish population. To appease the rising power of Christendom, the Persians betrayed the Jews and expelled them from Jerusalem.
Sandburg wrote, "The cache was abandoned after 602 C.E., most probably after the Persian conquest of Jerusalem and after the Persians changed their attitude to the Jews and allowed their expulsion from the city. The fact that the gold was not properly hidden nor taken back attests to the tragic circumstances that led to its abandonment."