The Crusades were a time of religious conflict, when territory and castles were won with bloody battles and then quickly lost again—and with all that brouhaha, who had time to make new coins? When the Christian Knights Hospitaller buried a jug of 108 gold coins at the castle of Apollonia, a now-deserted stronghold north of modern-day Tel Aviv, they were probably hoping to preserve their hoard from the Egyptian soldiers then besieging the fortress. Although they never returned for their money, its recent discovery is telling researchers a lot about Crusader economics and raising new questions—like why the Christians used primarily gold dinars forged by the Fatimids hundreds of years earlier, rather than minting their own currency, something that would have demonstrated their wealth, power, and cultural identity. Many of the coins found in the crusader castle, oddly enough, are emblazoned with the names of Muslim sultans.
Image courtesy of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University
This might look like a lot of old coins, but they come from
a trove 35 times smaller than the most recent find.
Uncovering ancient buried treasure doesn’t require the skills to interpret a secret map or navigate a booby-trapped cave. All it took to turn up the largest hoard of Iron Age coins ever found in Europe were two metal detectors…and a lot of patience. After 30 years of searching, Reg Mead and Richard Miles discovered a cache of 30,000 to 50,000 gold and silver Celtic coins worth up to $15 million.
About three decades ago, Mead and Miles heard that a farmer had discovered some silver coins in a field on Jersey, a self-governing island in the English Channel. Although most people would dismiss the rumor, the two men were so intrigued that they started investigating with their metal detectors, a practice they continued through February of this year, when their long quest turned up 60 silver coins and one gold one. Still not satisfied, the men kept looking.