Monday March 14, 2016

Hiker finds rare 2,000-year-old Roman coin, turns it over to authorities

Laurie Rimon found this gold coin while she was hiking with friends at an archaeological site.

Laurie Rimon found this gold coin while she was hiking with friends at an archaeological site. (IAA)

Listen 5:58

A hiker in Israel has found a nearly 2,000-year-old Roman gold coin near Galilee. The coin, which bears the face of Caesar Augustus, is one of only two known to exist.

"Not a lot of people turn these things over.  I guess I'm a rarity." - Laurie Rimon

"I really didn't think it was anything," Laurie Rimon tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "When I showed it to the guide, she got really excited. She took a picture of it and sent it to someone at the antiquities deptartment."

nir and laurie

Nir Distelfeld, an inspector with the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery (right) studies the rare gold coin with Laurie Rimon and her hiking group. (IAA)

Within two hours, someone from the antiquities ministry had tracked down their hiking group to collect the coin.

"Not a lot of people turn these things over," says Rimon, "I guess I'm a rarity, even though, by law, that's what you are supposed to do."

The coin was minted by Emperor Trajan in AD 107. It was part of a series of coins that paid tribute to previous Roman rulers.

COIN2

The coin has the image of Caesar Augustus, in tribute to his rule. (IAA)

According to the head curator of the coin department at the Israel Antiquities Authority, Dr, Donald T. Ariel, it may have been left by the Roman army, possibly while putting down an uprising in the area.

The only other copy of the coin is at the British Museum.

Rimon says she doesn't regret turning the coin in, but wishes she could have kept it longer. "I probably would have slept with it under my pillow and then called in [to the antiquities authority] the next day," she jokes.

Dr. Ariel

Dr. Donald T. Ariel of the Israel Antiquities Authority thinks the coin may have belonged to a Roman solider putting down an uprising in the area. (IAA)

The government plans to honour Rimon with a certificate of appreciation and a guided tour for her family and hiking group to some closed-off antiquities sites.

Rimon suspects the coin will wind up in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. "I hope they give me free admission," she says.