Two bundles were unearthed containing thirty-six gold coins, gold and silver jewelry, and a gold medallion etched with symbols of a menorah, a shofar (ram's horn) and a Torah scroll, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported Monday.
Archaeologist Eilat Mazar called the find at the Temple Mount's southern wall "a breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime discovery."
"We have been making significant finds from the First Temple Period in this area, a much earlier time in Jerusalem's history, so discovering a golden seven-branched Menorah from the seventh century CE (A.D.) at the foot of the Temple Mount was a complete surprise."
The menorah, a candelabrum with seven branches used in the Temple, is the national symbol of the state of Israel and reflects the historical presence of Jews in the area, the researchers said.
Mazar said he believes the treasure was either hidden or abandoned around the time of the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 A.D.
"It would appear that the most likely explanation is that the ... cache was earmarked as a contribution toward the building of a new synagogue, at a location that is near the Temple Mount," he said. "What is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful. The treasure was abandoned, and its owners could never return to collect it."
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