The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Gold from the Sea — Newfound Treasure from Caesarea
June 16, 2015

Pure Gold

The largest gold treasure ever found in Israel displayed for the first time

Anyone passing through the Archaeology Wing of the Israel Museum stops and looks at this glittering wonder: about 2,600 coins of pure gold (24 karat) — the largest gold cache ever discovered in Israel — displayed in a specially-designed showcase. "People just stand and look at the gold coins with a wide smile," says Dr. Haim Gitler, Chief Curator of Archaeology at the Israel Museum, who co-curated the exhibit with Dr. Robert Kool, a senior curator from the Israel Antiquities Authority. "This gold treasure is so extraordinary that that it awakens their imagination. People ask themselves what it was meant for and what was supposed to happen with all this gold."

The gold treasure was discovered in early February this year on the seabed near Caesarea by divers who had set off for an entirely routine dive. They called in specialists from the marine archaeology unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority who started gathering up the coins. It quickly became evident that the size of the treasure was without precedent, including thousands of dinar and quarter-dinar coins from the mid-9th century to the start of the 11th century CE. The total weight of the coins comes to an impressive 7.5 kilograms.
Collecting gold treasure from the seabed.
Collecting the treasure from the seabed. The coins were preserved in excellent condition. Photo: Hagai Nativ, Israel Antiquities Authority. 


The treasure will be displayed at the Museum for only three months as part of a special collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Caesarea Development Corporation. "We are just  starting to research the coins, but we felt obliged to display the treasure immediately due to the great public interest it aroused," explains Dr. Robert Kool.

According to Dr. Haim Gitler, although the coins lay for a thousand years under water, they were preserved in excellent condition. Since the coins were made of pure gold — they still glitter. "These coins were minted by the Fatimid caliphs in Egypt, who ruled a huge empire that stretched from North Africa in its westernmost part and eastward to Syria and Yemen," explains Gitler. "The total value was the equivalent of the salaries of 1,200 day laborers during the Fatimid Caliphate. Apparently, the coins were on a ship that sank near Caesarea following a storm. Perhaps these were the taxes collected from local residents and were being sent to the center of the Fatimid Empire in Cairo. According to another theory, the money may have been intended for soldiers stationed in the Fatimid stronghold in Caesarea."

The treasure discovery is of particular importance for the Druze community; most of the coins uncovered carry the name of the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim, who is considered the founder of the Druze faith in the Oneness of Allah in 1017 CE.

To the exhibition website »

Blown-glass katharos on flaring foot, Italy, Belfer collection
Blown-glass kantharos on flaring foot Italy, 1st century CE Photo The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Elie Posner

Aristocratic Taste

Ancient art from the Belfer collection

Artifacts from the Belfer collection, one of the most prestigious collections of Greek and Roman art, are presented to the public for the first time: exquisite glass vessels, sculptures, mosaics, and luxury goods of the kind used by nobility in sumptuous Roman villas.
The collection was gifted to the Israel Museum on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its founding by Robert and Reneé Belfer of New York, who amassed the items over decades. Highlights of the collection are displayed, providing a glimpse into the lives of ancient Rome aristocracy. These include a personal mirror, a unique warrior's helmet, a decorative panel from a sarcophagus, statues and reliefs illustrating myths and legends, and an exceptionally-preserved 2000-year-old bronze statue of a boy with inlaid eyes. Apparently it had once been displayed in a magnificently-decorated rich Roman home.
Mashina to perform "The First 30 Years"

Summer of Live Music at the Museum

Israeli music in the Sculpture Garden

The Museum's 50th anniversary celebrations continue with performances by the best of Israeli musicians under star-filled skies in a special atmosphere.

Mashina - The First 30 Years
Jul 27 | 9 pm

The Israel Opera Hosts Noa (Achinoam Nini)
Jul 29 | 9 pm

Rita - Ahava Gedola (Big Love) Tu B'Av
Jul 30 | 9 pm

Klezmer Embracing the World
Aug 30 | 9 pm
David Broza and the New Andalusian Orchestra
Aug 4 | 9 pm

Performances are handicapped accessible | Space is limited | Member's discount

Further Information and ticket purchasing »

Monday Meetings for A Brief History of Humankind: The Exhibition
Searching for meaning from human experiences and historical events

A series of lectures exploring the fascinating juncture between happiness and suffering of mankind — revealing surprising sides of the development of humanity.
Coming lectures:
Mystical Masters and Higher Realms with Dr. Nadine Shenkar
Jun 22 6 pm
A Historical View of Futuristic Cinema with Rachel Esterkin
Jun 29 6 pm

Further information and registration »

Family Time
The Israel Museum Hosts the Train Theater

A series of children's shows where puppets and objects breathe life into children's stories.
Youth Wing Auditorium.


The Best Collection Ever
Jun 23 | Tues 5 pm
The Emperor's New Clothes (from age 5)
Jun 30 | Tues 5 pm

Further information and registration »

Gallery Talks

Tues, 7 pm

Happy Birthday 
Orna Granot, exhibition curator
Jun 16  

Rembrandt van Rijn
Shlomit Steinberg, exhibition curator
Jun 23  

A Brief History of Humankind
Tania Coen-Uzzielli, exhibition curator

Jun 30

Wed, 12 pm
A Brief History of Humankind

Tania Coen-Uzzielli, exhibition curator
Jun 17  (in English)

Aristocratic Taste
Focus on glass
Natasha Katsnelson, exhibition curator
Jun 24  

Members Corner

Neighboring Sounds
A concert series by outstanding performers from the Conservatory of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. Space is limited.
Free of charge.
Jun 19  | Fri 12:30 pm 

Dialogue in the Dark
Guided tour of the unique exhibition

shown in total darkness
at the Israeli Children's Museum in Holon.
Jun 29 |  Mon 8:15
Tues and Sat, Courtesy of Canadian Friends of the Israel Museum and
David and Inez Myers,
Cleveland, Ohio

Free entrance for soldiers doing compulsory military service
and for those doing National Service, courtesy of Israeli Friends
of the Israel Museum

The Museum keeps its doors open
with the help of its guardian friends
June 14 - 20 
The Morning Star Foundation