March 19 (UPI) -- Nine rare bronze coins, buried beneath the ruins of buildings that served Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, were found during excavations for a highway-widening project in Israel.
The artifacts, displayed by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Beit Shemesh, offer a window to life in Holy Land during the time of Jesus, a period during the first centuries AD, as Christianity first began to spread. The coins are on display at the National Treasures Storerooms.
Last June, excavations during the expansion of Highway 1 near the Israeli Arab village Abu Gosh revealed a two-story tower next to an ancient wine press.
"The treasure was found next to a building, in a pile of large stones," Israel Antiquities Authority Excavation head Annette Landes-Nagar said. "It seems that during a dangerous period, the owner placed the coins in a wallet inside a hidden niche in the wall, hoping to come back for it later. But today we know he never collected them."
The coins include the images of three Byzantine emperors: Justinian (483-565 AD), Mauricius (539-602 AD) and Phocas (547-610 AD).
"This treasure shows what happened to this ancient site," Landes-Nagar said. "The historical background is connected, apparently, to the invasion of the Sasanian Neo-Persian Empire, which took place in the year 614 CE. Among other things, this invasion brought about the end of the Byzantine rule in Israel."
Israel Antiquities Authority Judea Division archaeologist Amit Shedman said the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Paths Transport Infrastructure National Company will work together to ensure this historical site remains protected.
The storerooms "serve as a center for the storage, documentation and central control of antiquities that were uncovered in archaeological excavations in Israel from 1948," according to the IAA website.
Approximately 1 million items from the earliest prehistoric periods until the end of the Ottoman period -- spanning a period of almost one million years -- are on display in the storerooms.