Archaeologists find unique Roman coin in northern Israel

Archaeologists find unique Roman coin in northern Israel
A rare and 'remarkably well-preserved' Roman coin depicting the goddess Luna and the Cancer zodiac signs has been found by archaeologists off the coast of Haifa.
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The unique coin was found off the coast of Haifa [AFP]

A rare and "remarkably well preserved" Roman-era coin dating back nearly 1,900 years, depicting the moon goddess Luna has been found near Haifa in northern Israel.

The coin minted in Alexandria in present-day Egypt which features the zodiac sign Cancer below Luna and the era's Roman emperor, Antoninus Pius, on the other side, was discovered by archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) during explorations off the coast.

The Carmel area near Haifa where the coin was discovered has a high Palestinian population.

The coin is dated "year eight", referring to the eighth year of Antoninus Pius's rule, which ran from 138 to 161, part of an era known as Pax Romana, when there was relative peace throughout the Roman Empire.

It is part of a series of 13 - specimens of which have been discovered elsewhere in the world - depicting the 12 signs of the zodiac and another, the complete zodiac wheel, the IAA said.

"This is the first time such a coin has been discovered off Israel's coast," Jacob Sharvit, head of the IAA's marine archaeology unit, said in a statement.

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"These finds, which were lost at sea and disappeared from sight for hundreds and thousands of years, have been remarkably well preserved; some are extremely rare and their discovery completes parts of the historical puzzle of the country's past," he added.

Sharvit told AFP that the Luna piece was found among a "small hoard" of other coins and the circumstances of the find indicated there had been a shipwreck nearby.

The entire area of historic Palestine is rich in ancient archaeological sites and artefacts. In recent months several unique archaeological treasures have been found in the besieged Gaza Strip.