FORMATION OF A SCIENTIFIC DISCIPLINE
The later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries brought great changes in the economic and the social fabric of Europe. The increased wealth generated by the Industrial Revolution and the spread of education created a class equipped with the means, leisure, and knowledge to indulge in intellectual and cultural pursuits. It is during this period that scholars were able to gather enough material to compile comprehensive scientific books about ancient Jewish coins. Their studies arrange the coins in chronological order and separate the ancient coins from the popular fantasized coins that had flooded Europe from the sixteenth through the eighteenth century. Excellent examples of such studies are the publications of Bayer and Eckhel, produced during the later part of the eighteenth century, and the works of de Saulcy, Cavedoni, and Madden, from the second half of the nineteenth century.
The French scholar Félix de Saulcy (1807-1880), one of the most picturesque figures ever to explore Palestine, made his first journey to the Holy Land in 1850-51. His visit was devoted to the survey of the Dead Sea region. In 1854, de Saulcy published his famous book on Jewish numismatics, a work of true excellence containing rich illustrations of all the coins he had collected during his travels throughout Palestine. On his second visit in 1863-64, he received permission from the Ottoman authorities to excavate the Tombs of the Kings in Jerusalem, and thus became the first to engage in archaeological excavations in western Palestine. It was during this excavation that he discovered a sarcophagus bearing an Aramaic inscription, which he subsequently transferred to the Louvre Museum in Paris. The removal of the sarcophagus created an uproar within the Jewish community, and de Saulcy's excavations became the object of fierce criticism. As Abraham Luntz wrote in 1891:
Our brothers who honored this cave did everything in their power to discourage the French tourist Mr. de Saulcy from performing such an action, especially from removing the sarcophagus and the artifacts from the land of our forefathers. We notified the head of the Rabbinate in the capital and informed other groups of his activities by telegraph, yet to no avail. F. de Saulcy left the port of Jaffa before anything could be done to halt him. Our brothers gathered around the site and began to collect the bones which the Frenchman had strewn and gave respect and reverence to the dead and the site.
Frederic W. Madden (1839-1904) was the first English scholar to contribute significantly to study of Jewish numismatics. His work (History of Jewish Coinage and of Money in the Old and New Testament, London, 1864) exhibit excellent scholarship and deal skillfully with an extremely difficult topic. They remained the standard textbooks on the subject until the appearance of George F. Hill's book in 1914.
Madden's path was by no means a smooth one. In 1861, he was appointed assistant in the department of Coins and Medals of the British Museum. In 1868, however, his promising career as a museum numismatist came to an abrupt end. Several years earlier, the collector Edward Wigan had donated an important collection of 293 Roman gold coins to the British Museum. After these were incorporated into the Museum's holdings, some duplicates remained. Wigan instructed Madden to keep these for him at Madden's home. Madden, however, declared that he had later been told by Wigan to dispose of the duplicates as he saw fit. He thus sold some of the duplicates for approximately £300, which he kept for himself. In 1868, the museum authorities were informed of the situation. Wigan denied the gift, but regarded the transaction as a private "misunderstanding." Nevertheless, Madden was judged to have behaved irresponsibly and was forced to resign from his position at the British Museum in 1874. Later on that year, Madden became secretary and librarian at Brighton College. In 1888, he was appointed Chief Librarian, a post he maintained until 1902.
Did Frederic W. Madden Visit Palestine?
A graffito found on one of the lintels of the Tomb of the Judges in Jerusalem reads Madden 1874. Did Madden visit Palestine? On the one hand, there is no record of any journey made by Madden to the country. However, since Madden is a fairly common English name, it is possible that the inscription was carved by another Madden who visited Palestine at this time. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that the inscription dates from the year 1874. Madden left his position at the British Museum on June 26, 1874, and considering his interest in ancient Jewish coins and his knowledge of Jewish sources, it is not impossible that he visited Palestine before starting his new job at Brighton College later on that year.
Iosepho Eckhel: Founder of Modern Numismatic Science
Iosepho Eckhel's monumental work of the eighteenth century, Doctrina Nvmorvm Vetervm, represents an erudite compendium of coins, which remained a practical tool for numismatists for generations. Eckhel was the first scholar to classify Jewish coins correctly within the general corpus of ancient coins. Unlike his predecessors of the sixteenth through eighteenth century, Eckhel's expertise enabled him to distinguish between genuine and fantasy coins. In fact, he spoke angrily of "the silly pieces of silver with Hebraic inscriptions (the fantasy shekels) which often make fools of the easily deceived."
The two volumes by Franciscus Perez Bayer, archdeacon of Valentia, represent the earliest comprehensive scientific books in the field of Jewish numismatics. The illustrations found in these books are the first accurate depictions of Jewish coins to be published.
George F. Hill (1867-1947) was without doubt one of the most prominent numismatists in the history of the field. His major work on the coinage of Palestine has remained a useful reference book until the present day. An important section of this book is dedicated to Jewish coins.
Books Rediscovered at the
Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem
In the spring of 1996, in the course of work on the British Mandatory Collection at the Rockefeller Museum, a wooden coin cabinet was discovered which contained numerous cardboard plates with a large number of coin casts meticulously glued to the surface. Examination of the remainder of the cabinet's contents yielded most of the original plates used for the printing of Hill's great work, British Museum Catalogue, Palestine, and the entire set of plates for the British Museum Catalogue, Phoenicia, which Hill published in 1910.
An intriguing question thus arises, namely, how did these plates become part of the British Mandatory Archaeological collection that was stored in the vaults of the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem? We know that Hill made a brief visit to Palestine in 1938. However, not a single meeting with his colleagues at the Rockefeller Museum is mentioned in his notes.
Information courtesy of the Coin Department of the Israel Antiquity Authority
Leopold Hamburger was a Jerusalem banker with a profound interest in ancient Jewish coins. A large part of his collection came from a hoard discovered at Dura, situated south of Hebron. In 1908, Hamburger went bankrupt and was forced to sell his collection to the British Museum. Six years later, some of the coins belonging to his collection reappeared in Hill's plates.
Leopold Hamburger, "Die Münzprügungen während des letzten Aufstanses der Israeliten gegen Rom," Zeitschrift fur Numismatik 18 (1892)
Mordechai Narkiss (1897-1957) devoted his life to the collection of Jewish art and antiquities. In 1932, he became director of the Bezalel Museum of Art and Crafts. Narkiss wrote on many aspects of Jewish art, including Jewish coins. His study of Jewish coins fuses his passion for collecting with the foresight of a meritorious scholar. The two coins on display (a coin of Julia Mamaea from Bostra and an Islamic piece) were found in one of the drawers of his desk after he passed away.
Mordechai Narkiss, Coins of Palestine, Part One: Jewish Coins, Part Two: The Coinage of the Gentiles, Jerusalem, 1936, 1938
As a moneychanger working within Jerusalem's Jaffa Gate, Samuel Raffalovich (1867-1923) was periodically exposed to ancient coins, shown to him by beduoins and local peasants. However, it was not until Eliezer Ben-Yehuda identified the ancient Hebrew letters on a coin in his possession that Raffaelovich's passion for ancient coins was kindled. Eventually, Ben-Yehuda taught Raffaelovich to read not only ancient Hebrew script but also Greek and Latin writing. Refusing to receive payment for his this service, Ben- Yehuda only asked that Raffaelovich change his name to the more Hebrew-sounding Raffaeli.
In subsequent years, Raffaeli established an antiquities shop specializing in the sale of antiquities to foreign collectors and museums. Later, he spent some time in England, where he opened the first travel agency in London to organize trips to Palestine. In 1913, he published the first Hebrew book on ancient Jewish coins, and in 1920 he was appointed Keeper of the Coin Collection of the Palestine Archaeological Museum, a post he held until his death in 1923. His private collection, which he sold to the Palestine Archaeological Museum (now the Rockefeller Museum) remains part of the museum's holdings until this day.
In Raffaeli's book we read: "In the treasure of our fellow townsman Mr.Chaim Lipkin, there is a coin half the value of coin no.149. It is without a star, and the gates of the Temple are (represented by) two columns . . . According to Mr. Lipkin, no more than three such coins have been discovered so far, all of which passed through his hands."
This coin was subsequently examined by G. F. Hill of the British Museum, who described it as a forgery in his major work of 1914. In 1922, Raffaeli, still believing the coin to be genuine, purchased the coin from Lipkin on behalf of the Palestine Archaeological Museum. On June 14, 1927 the coin was sent to the British Museum for re-examination. Hill, in a letter from June 29,
reasserted his position on the coin, and it was consequently stored as a forgery in the Palestine Archaeological Museum's vaults. Ironically, this coin is now regarded as a genuine coin struck during the last years of the Bar Kokhba Revolt (134- 135 CE).