In a joint effort between the University of Minnesota and University of Michigan, researchers discovered an ancient gold coin dating back 2,200 years. The large gold mnaieion ranks in the top five of Israel’s rarest finds according to Dr. Donald T. Ariel, head of the Coin Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The coin weighs approximately 4.5 grams and was minted by Ptolemy V in Alexandria, Egypt. It is the second gold Ptolemaic coin ever found in Israel.

Due to the extra large size of the coin (approximately six times the average weight of ancient coins previously found in Israel), Dr. Ariel suspects this coin was used for symbolic or ceremonial purposes.

“A coin this size wouldn’t have been circulating in the markets, it would have had ceremonial purpose,” Ariel said, adding that a coin of its size would have been worth a mina, a unit of measurement equal to a hundred silver coins.

“This much silver would have been the equivalent of a half-year’s salary for an above average person at the time,” he said.

The head of the coin, the obverse, portrays Queen Arsinoe II Philadelphus while the tail, or reverse of the coin, illustrates two “overlapping cornucopias decorated with fillets,” according to the IAA.

The meaning of the word Philadelphus is “brotherly love,” which may refer to the fact that Arsinoe and her husband, Ptolemy II, were also brother and sister, which was common in the period.

Dr. Ariel speculated that the original possessors of the ancient gold coin may have hidden it away and did not retrieve it for unknown reasons.

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