After a police search spanning 20 years, a quarter shekel coin from as far back as 69 AD, one of only four of its kind known to exist and worth $1m, has been returned to the state of Israel.
The silver coin was minted during a Jewish revolt nearly 2,000 years ago but stolen from Israel in 2002.
The search for the coin began when the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) were told by informants that the coin had been taken by Palestinians from a hoard unearthed in the Ella Valley, south of Jerusalem.
The IAA says it spent the next ten years and six months trying to locate the coin, which passed through illicit antiques markets in Israel, Jordan and the UK. It was eventually exported to the US for sale at an auction in Denver, Colorado, in 2017.
The IAA alerted US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which then took administrative custody of the coin. The investigation was passed to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit (ATU), which obtained a court order to repatriate the coin based on information from informants in five countries along with help from authorities in Europe and the Middle East.
The coin was handed over on Monday September 12, in a ceremony at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office attended by US and Israeli officials, including Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan.
“Today we join our partners to return an incredibly rare piece of Israel’s history, the quarter shekel coin, a symbol of independence from the time of Roman presence in what is now modern Israel,” HSI agent Ricky J Patel told the gathering.
“A cherished piece of history [is] finally going home,”
The silver coin, embossed with Jewish motifs, is one of only four of its kind known to be in existence. The IAA dated it to 69 AD – the fourth year of the Great Revolt.
The minting of a such a coin was “in fact a declaration of independence by the Jews in the land of Israel, a statement against the mighty empire that stood before them”, said Ilan Hadad of the IAA.
The Great Revolt saw a rebellion by Jews in Judea against oppressive rule by the Romans, who had ended Jewish independence there a century earlier.