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British tourist strikes gold in Jerusalem parking lot  Dec 22, 2008

Hundreds of gold coins from the seventh century were uncovered in an archeological excavation just outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

The hoard of 264 gold coins was discovered Sunday by a British tourist volunteering at the dig in a parking lot outside the Dung Gate in the ancient City of David.

The find was "one of the largest and most impressive" coin hoards ever discovered in Jerusalem, and by far the largest and most important of its period, according to Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, director of the excavation.

The Byzantine-era cache was discovered amid the ruins of a seventh century building where a striking 2,000-year-old gold earring from the Roman era had been dug up last month. The cache likely had been hidden in a niche in one of the building's walls.

The coins bore the image of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, who was depicted wearing military dress and holding a cross in his right hand. He ruled between 610 and 641 CE.

The only other find of this type and era to be uncovered in Jerusalem yielded a mere five gold coins.

The volunteer responsible for the latest find, Nadine Ross of Birmingham, had been working at the site for the past month and was in the final week of her Israel stay.

"It's an amazing thing to find. I've only been here four weeks," she said, her hands full of bright yellow coins that appeared to be in mint condition. "To come across this is something I didn't dream of. I don't think anyone at home will believe me."

The current monetary value of the coins was not immediately clear.

British tourist strikes gold in Jerusalem parking lot
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