OMAHA – Researchers have discovered an extremely rare coin during excavations led by the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) in the lost biblical city of Bethsaida.
Late last week a group of students and UNO faculty, led by Associate Professor of Religion Rami Arav, completed the third and final session of the 2014 excavation session of the famous Bethsaida archeological dig site near the Sea of Galilee.
The highlight of the excavation was the discovery of a Judea Capta coin, which was minted by Roman Emporor Domitian during his reign of 81 – 96 CE in honor of the conquest of Judea and the destruction of Jersusalem in 70 CE by his father, Vespasian, and brother, Titus.
Christie Cobb, a doctoral student at Drew University in New Jersey, discovered the coin. There are only 48 other versions of this coin that have been found, and fewer still at Biblical sites such as Bethsaida.
“The coin confirms other ceramic data about the date of the large Roman period building we have been excavating for the past several years,” explained Carl Savage, Ph.D., an archeologist at the Bethsaida excavation site and director of Doctor of Ministry program at Drew University. “The coin also connects Bethsaida with the great importance that the Roman Empire placed on the quelling of the revolt in Judea and Galilee. Coupled with the other finds … it makes for interesting speculation about who may have occupied the building.”
Researchers also found a Hellenistic oil lamp with a depiction of a bearded man that could possibly be Dionysus or Silenus, two nocturnal figures from Greco-Roman mythology, as well as a Babylonian cylinder seal made out of black stone.
It was in 1987 that Arav discovered the site of Bethsaida, a city that was founded in the 10th century BCE, served as the capital of Geshur, a Biblical city that was destroyed by conquest in 732 BCE. Bethsaida is also said to the home village of some of Jesus’ apostles, specifically Peter, Andrew and Philip. The city was eventually deserted due to a geological disaster in the 4th century CE.
Each year, Arav leads a select number of students from a consortium of worldwide universities as they uncover more information and history from a site that was thought to be lost to time.
Sessions run from mid-May through the beginning of July.
In November, from Thursday, Nov. 13, through Saturday, Nov. 15, UNO will host the annual Batchelder Biblical Archeology Conference, where world-renowned researchers and archeologists will discuss their latest findings. The conference is free and open to the public and will be held at the Thompson Alumni Center on UNO's Dodge Campus.
For more information, please visit the Bethsaida Excavation website at world.unomaha.edu/bethsaida. For media questions, please contact UNO media relations coordinator, Charley Reed, at 402.554.2129 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
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* EDIT: In the original version of this release, the photo above was uncredited. Please note that this photo is courtesy of Hanan Shafir, official photographer for the Bethsaida Excavations *