A team of archaeologists from northern Israel has discovered a rare bronze coin depicting a zodiac symbol, dating back nearly 2,000 years.
The treasure was found near Haifa in the Mediterranean Sea and minted in Alexandria, Egypt during the reign of Roman Emperor Antonius Pius.
The coin bears the words “year eight”, referring to the eighth year (144 or 145 CE) of Pius’ reign.
Exceptionally well preserved, the piece depicts a crab, the image of the zodiac sign Cancer, beneath a portrait of Luna, the moon goddess.
According to researchers, it belonged to a set of 13 coins marking each of the 12 signs of the zodiac, as well as one inscribed with the complete wheel of the zodiac.
“This is the first time such a piece has been discovered off the coast of Israel, and it is a rare addition to the collection of national treasures,” said the director of the maritime archeology unit of Israel Antiquities Authority, Jacob Sharvit, in a statement.
“Israel’s Mediterranean shores and waters have yielded many archaeological sites and finds that attest to the ancient connections between the Mediterranean ports and the countries that border it.”
The piece was recovered while researchers were conducting a maritime survey off Haifa as part of a larger plan to locate, document, research and preserve antiquities.
Found near a “small treasure” of other bronze coins, it is likely that the cache fell into the sea following a shipwreck.
“Over the past decade, the State of Israel has changed its perception of the sea,” said Israel Antiquities Authority director Eli Eskosido. “Rather than marking the country’s border, the sea is now recognized as an integral part of its cultural heritage, in addition to security considerations and strategic and economic concerns.
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