silver shekel coin

Ancient Silver Half-Shekel Found by 8-Year-Old

August 26th, 2017 by

On rare occasions, the most fantastic discoveries are made by pure accident. This is true not only throughout human history, but also applies to our daily lives.

For one eight-year-old girl in Israel, this absolutely turned out to be the case!

Stumbling Upon a Rarity

Not far from the Israeli settlement of Halamish, a young girl named Hallel came across a strange-looking coin on the ground. She was merely walking home from school when she spied the item and picked it up. Later, the precocious fourth-grader conducted a Google search that seemed to indicate the coin had ancient origins. Her older sister suggested it might be authentic, and this got the ball rolling on identifying the ancient oddity.

Hallel’s parents assumed the coin was an ancient shekel, a Hebrew silver coin. (The modern Israeli currency today is known as the “New Sheqel,” an homage to the ancient coinage.) The family was mystified when the coin didn’t match the known size and weight of these shekels. It was actually a half-shekel, a smaller silver coin that is believed to be the first silver coinage ever used by the Jews. Traditionally, each Jewish male in Jerusalem (during antiquity) would offer a half-shekel to the Temple as a tax, as well as a way of conducting a census.

silver shekel coin

Example of a silver shekel. Image courtesy Ancient Art (Flickr) [CC-BY]

Eventually, as per national law, Hallel relinquished the coin to archaeologists for study and preservation. (Treasure finders in Israel are not permitted to keep what they find.) This incredibly rare find dates to nearly 2,000 years ago, around the time of the Great Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire. The silver half-shekel is perhaps made even more rare by the use of an older lettering style for the coin’s inscriptions.

While no official appraisal of the coin’s value has been published, it offers an intriguing window into the history of the Holy Land.


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