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Archaeological Discoveries:
Rare Crusader Coin Found in Jafa Flea Market

(March 2005)


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An extremely rare coin from the days of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1291) was found during Israel Antiquities Authority excavations directed by Martin Peilstöcker and Amit Reem in Jaffa's flea market. The find, a rare Frankish silver half drachma, was identified by specialists in the IAA Coin Department and is the first specimen to come from a controlled excavation. It was minted only during a very brief period in Frankish Acre, between 1251 and 1257, imitating the half dirhem struck in Damascus by the Ayyubids during the first half of the 13th century.

The find was discovered in a domestic structure dating to the 13th century with ceramics dating to the same period. The half drachma carries a cross, a fleur-de-lis and an Arabic inscription within a square on both sides. The legend written in Cufic script surprisingly pronounces the Trinity, the central doctrine of the Christian faith (al Ab, al-Bin we al Rukh al Kuds- the Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost). Both sides also contain four marginal legends around each square with the Christian blessing "his is the glory for ever and ever" which are all but obliterated.

Gold dinars and silver dirhems struck by Fatimid and Ayyubid rulers were extensively imitated by the Frankish kingdom of Jerusalem and the Northern principalities of Antioch and Tripoli during the 12th and 13th century. In 1250, the papal legate, bishop Eudes de Chateauroux arrived in the Latin East. Upon learning that the Franks struck coins with the name of the Muslim Prophet and accompanying religious legends, he ordered an end to the practice, requesting the pope in Rome to intervene personally. Pope Innocentius IV issued a stern reply and threatened to impose a ban and excommunicate all those striking such gold and silver dinars and dirhems mentioning the name of Muhammad and his birthdate (Hijra year).

To circumvent the papal prohibition minters in Crusader Acre resumed imitations but this time added Christian legends and symbols.


Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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