A rare Roman gold coin with the image of Roman Emperor Nero has been unearthed outside the ruins of the 1st Century Jewish villas in Jerusalem. Archaeologists from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte claim that this coin was struck in 56/57 AD and belonged to wealthy members of the priestly caste.

Archaeologist Shimon Gibson describes the coin, which was verified by historian and numismatist Dr. David Jacobson from London, as exceptional because other coins of this type can only be found in private collections not on excavation sites. The edge around the Roman gold coin or aureus is engraved with the lettering:  NERO CAESAR AVG IMP. On the other side, the coin bears an image of an oak wreath with letters “EX S C” and surrounding inscription “PONTIF MAX TR P III.”

“The coin probably came from one of the rich 2000-year-old Jewish dwellings which the UNC Charlotte team have been uncovering at the site,” says Gibson. “These belonged to the priestly and aristocratic quarter located in the Upper City of Jerusalem. Finds include the well-preserved rooms of a very large mansion, a Jewish ritual pool (mikveh) and a bathroom, both with their ceilings intact.”

The coin dates before the Roman’s Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus and the Roman legions. It was also dated to the same year of St. Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, which led him to be arrested because he took the Gentiles into the Temple. He was then imprisoned in Caesarea.

Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus and the Roman legions.

The coin was hidden away and was missed by the Roman soldiers. It is unlikely that it was thrown away like garbage. Instead, it must have somehow been dropped in the site it was found during the chaos in the area.

The coin is just one of the many valuable finds excavated in Mount Zion in Jerusalem during this summer. The team will resume their work in 2017.

Nero was a Roman emperor, the last of the Julio-Claudian line, who ruled for 14 years from 54 to 68 AD. He was a tyrant and is believed to be responsible for burning Rome in 64 AD. He never visited Jerusalem.