Evolution of Coinage
Since they were introduced some 2,600 years ago, coins have become an integral part of daily life, reflecting in their own way some of humanity’s deepest aspirations. From generation to generation, kings, rulers, cities, and states have issued countless numbers of coins, which offer a wealth of insights into the actions of individuals and societies. Although diminutive in size, coins are significant historical documents. Their symbols and inscriptions make it possible to trace the unwritten history of states and cities and to verify obscure accounts from other sources. Most important, because coins constitute direct physical evidence of a period, they have a certain advantage over information from literary sources—especially since ancient historians often copied their material from other writers, and most did not actually witness the events they wrote about. Deciphering the language of coins—their vocabulary of symbols and abbreviated inscriptions—uncovers a treasure trove of information about the societies that minted them.
In 1969, the Israel Museum established its Numismatics Department. Its purpose was to exhibit the important numismatic material of ancient Israel, with an emphasis on Jewish coinage, while building a comprehensive collection of coins with the focus on those that circulated or were struck in the area over the ages. The collection consists primarily of donations from collectors and connoisseurs who assembled choice pieces and enabled the Museum to have, among others, the most comprehensive collection of Jewish coinage in the world, a significant group of Roman coins struck at the thirty- eight operating mints of Ancient Israel during the first century BCE until the third century CE, and an outstanding assemblage of Islamic gold coins.