Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Youth volunteers at an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation in central Israel discovered a clay jar with 425 pure gold coins dating back more than 1,000 years, officials said Monday.
The volunteers were participating in an archeological excavation where a neighborhood was being built when two of them made the rare discovery on Aug. 18.
"It was amazing," Oz Cohen, one of the volunteers, said in a news release. "I dug in the ground and when I excavated the soil saw what looked like very thin leaves. When I looked again, I saw these were gold coins. It was really exciting to find such a special and ancient treasure."
The coins date back to the Abbasid period some 1,100 years ago. The Abbasid Caliphate extended from Persia in the east to North Africa in the west, headquartered in Baghdad. The gold coins were dinars but also contained about 270 small gold cuttings. Those cuttings were pieces of gold dinars cut to serve as "small change."
Gold and silver coins were a regular part of the monetary system in Islamic countries after the 850s with the disappearance of bronze and copper coins.
"The person who buried this treasure 1,100 years ago must have expected to retrieve it, and even secured the vessel with a nail so that it would not move," Liat Nadav-Ziv and Elie Haddad of the antiquities authority said in a statement. "We can only guess what prevented him from returning to collect this treasure.
"Finding gold coins, certainly in such a considerable quantity, is extremely rare. We almost never find them in archeological excavations, given that gold has always been extremely valuable, melted down and reused from generation to generation. The coins, which were made of pure gold that does not oxidize in air, were found in excellent condition as if buried the day before."
Robert Kool, a coin expert at the authority, said the coins will be a valuable asset in researching the Abbasid period in Israel.
"Hopefully, the study of the hoard will tell us more about a period of which we still know very little," Kool said.