Late summer excavations in Israel have turned up what archaeologists say are two remarkable findings that illuminate Israel’s history.
In mid-September, the Israeli Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a small but significant engraving — 2,000 years old — of a menorah in an ancient synagogue in the Galilee.
“This is the first time that a menorah decoration has been discovered from the days when the Second Temple was still standing,” said archaeologist Dina Avshalom-Gorni, who is overseeing the excavation. “We can assume that the engraving that appears on the stone…was done by an artist who saw the [original] seven-branched menorah with his own eyes in the Temple in Jerusalem.”
The Galilee synagogue is one of only six in the world known to date to the time of the Second Temple, and was discovered while conducting a routine archaeology search before the construction of a hotel on the site.
A team of Hebrew University archaeologists working this month in hidden caves of the Judean Hills outside Jerusalem discovered the largest known collection of gold, silver and bronze coins from the Bar Kokhba rebellion (132-135 C.E.) against the Roman occupation of Jerusalem.
Although most of the 120 coins were originally Roman, the rebels refashioned them with Jewish symbols and lines of poetry about reclaiming the Holy City, using them as both a form of currency and a means of spreading the rebellion.
While much has changed since the time of the first menorah and the Bar Kokhba revolt much has endured. The menorah, 2,000 years later, still appears prominently on Israel’s penny, the *agurah.