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Dates on the silver shekels issued during the First JewishRoman War (6673 A.D.),
reading and understanding inscriptions thereon


Go directly to the part describing the dating system.

Minting its own coinage has been of great importance since ancient times to peoples and countries seeking sovereignty and independence from other states (which are often much more powerful). For example, the Russian numismatist and historian P. P. von Winkler noted in his works that coinage is an undoubted symbol of established supreme power, and therefore it is extremely important for all Muslim peoples and nations. Without a doubt, this is also true for other nations of other faiths and beliefs who had been living in an older historical period.

The Israelites had rebelled 3 times in the beginning of the 1st century of the 1st millennium, A.D.:
1. First JewishRoman War 6673 A.D. (coins issued during this revolt are the subject of the discussion of this article);
2. Kitos War, or Second JewishRoman War, 115117 A.D.; as well as
3. the Bar Kokhba revolt (132136 A.D.).

During the First Jewish War the following denominations were minted in silver: shekel, half shekel, and quarter shekel (there were also bronze coins, not discussed here). These silver coins were intended to demonstrate separation of the Jews from Roman authority.

Unlike Roman coins, the Jewish coins described in this article did not have a human portrait on them because it was necessary to keep the commandment Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

That is why, as we'll see below, in the center of the both sides of the coins there were not the images of the rulers, but important religious items, instead, namely: the Cup, and the sprig of 3 pomegranates.

The front side of the shekel (obverse) depicts the so-called Omer cup. This cup has been used to store the first fruits, it was also the measure of barley during Passover. Around the Cup, from right to left, using a Paleo-Hebrew alphabet the following text is written: שקל ישראל, this phrase literally means shekel (of) Israel.

shekel of Israel from the period of the First Jewish War, obverse

Legend on the obverse reads:

legend on the shekel, obverse

On the reverse of the shekel there's the sprig of three pomegranates. It has been used by the Jews as decoration on many religiously significant items. Around the sprig also from right to left, in Paleo-Hebrew alphabet goes the phrase ירושלים הקדושה, it literally means Jerusalem (the) Holy.

shekel of Israel from the period of the First Jewish War, reverse

Legend on the reverse reads:

legend on the shekel, reverse

 * * * 

Now let's have a look at the date symbols on the silver coins minted during the First Jewish War. Unlike modern coins of Israel on which years are being counted according to the era from Adam (i.e., starting from October 7th, year 3761 B.C.), on these coins the characters of the year refer to the time that has elapsed from the beginning of the (First Jewish) war (for independence) this corresponds to the 2nd approach to date calculation, according to the systematization I developed back in 2011 (dating starting from a certain important event in the nation's past) (NB: article is in Russian).

Year from the beginning of the War is indicated on the face side of the coin right above the image of the Omer's Cup. The year is written NOT by a number, but by a letter of the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, starting from the beginning of the alphabet (to be specific: א stands for year 1; ב year 2; ג year 3; ד year 4; ה year 5).

Date on the coins of the 1st year is written using only one character, whereas silver coins minted in the years 2, 3, 4 and 5 before the character of the year there's an extra letter, namely, ש; this character is the first letter of the Hebrew word שָנָה meaning the word year.

The table below clearly shows the year symbols, fragments of images of coins and drawings of dates thereon:

inscriptions of the years on the shekels of years 1 to 5

As a further aid for you, dear reader, here's an excerpt from the book written by Edgar Rogers' called A handy guide to Jewish coins (London, 1914), page 5:

Edgar Rogers book 1914 page 5

 * * * 

In support of the point made at the beginning of this article, I'd like to share with you guys a quote from an Israeli website. On November 23, 2021, the web-site hidabroot.org published an article entitled Holy Jerusalem: A rare 2,000-year-old silver coin found in the City of David. Dr Koal from the Israel Antiquities Authority says, (Nation's own) money is a sign of sovereignty. If you rebel, you use one of the symbols (of independence). The most obvious declaration of independence is the minting of (Nation's) own coin. The inscriptions on the coin clearly express the ambitions of the rebels. The choice of the Paleo-Hebrew script, which was no longer in use at that time, was no accident: its use was an expression of the longing of the people of that time for the days of David and Solomon and the days of the One Kingdom of Israel that is, the days when the people of Israel had complete independence in (their) land..

 * * * 

For more information on the topic, see the following sources:

1. Wikipedia article First Jewish Revolt coinage;
2. Article called Reading Judean Coins: To Identify and Understand Them on the web-site FORVM ANCIENT COINS (the drawing of the letters of the Paleo-Hebrew script; names, titles, words, and abbreviations on the coins of Ancient Judea);
3. The book by Edgar Rogers: A handy guide to Jewish coins (London, 1914).



This article was published on September 29th, 2022.

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