Israeli Hiker Finds Rare Ancient Roman Coin

The coin bears the image of Emperor Augustus and dates back to 107 A.D.

A rare ancient Roman coin - the second of its kind now known to exist - has been found in Israel by a hiker, authorities said Monday.

The coin bears the image of Emperor Augustus and dates back to 107 A.D. It was part of a series of nostalgic coins that Emperor Trajan minted and dedicated to the Roman emperors that ruled before him.

According to a statement by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the only other such coin currently known to the world is on display at the British Museum in London.

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Laurie Rimon was hiking with a group of friends in the eastern Galilee region when she spotted a shiny object in the grass.

Danny Syon, a coin expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority, described the nearly 2,000-year-old coin as "rare on a global level."

"On the reverse, we have the symbols of the Roman legions next to the name of the ruler Trajan, and on the obverse, instead of an image of Emperor Trajan, as was usually the case, there is the portrait of the emperor ‘Augustus Deified'," Syon said.

Donald T. Ariel, head curator of the coin department at the Israel Antiquities Authority, believes the coin may be linked to the presence of the Roman army in the region some 2,000 years ago, when efforts were made to subdue the supporters of the Bar Kochba Revolt (132-136 A.D.) against the Roman Empire.

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"Historical sources describing the period, note that some Roman soldiers were paid a high salary of three gold coins, the equivalent of 75 silver coins, each payday," Ariel said.

"Because of their high monetary value, soldiers were unable to purchase goods in the market with gold coins, as the merchants could not provide change for them," he added.

While bronze and silver coins of Emperor Trajan are common in the country, gold coins are extremely rare. So far, only two other gold coins of this emperor have been registered in the State Treasures but can't be compared to the new finding as the details on both of them are different.

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The Israel Antiquities Authority will award hiker Rimon a certificate of appreciation for her good citizenship.

"It was not easy parting with the coin," Rimon admitted.

"After all, it is not every day one discovers such an amazing object, but I hope I will see it displayed in a museum in the near future," she said.

The coin bears the portrait of the emperor Augustus on one side, and the symbols of the Roman legions next to the name of the ruler Trajan on the other.

July 19, 2012

-- Forty-eight tons of silver bars was recently hauled up from a British cargo ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sunk during World War II. The name of the S.S. Gairsoppa might have been the last sight seamen aboard three lifeboats saw as they abandoned the sinking ship on Feb. 17, 1941. Here, faint traces of the ship's painted letters are visible. In the bottom frame, contrast has been adjusted to highlight the letters.

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In service of the U.K. Ministry of War Transport, the Gairsoppa was laden with tea, iron and tons of silver. Because of bad weather and insufficient coal, the 412- foot steel-hulled cargo steamship, en route from India to Liverpool, England, was forced to break away from the military convoy off the coast of Ireland. As the captain re-routed for Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, the Gairsoppa and its crew of 86 men were hit by a torpedo from a Nazi U-boat. The boat sank in icy seas within 20 minutes.

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Left at the mercy of the winds and waves, two lifeboats soon disappeared. A third boat managed to sail for 13 days. When it was sighted, only three British officers and four Indian seamen remained of the original 35 occupants. As they tried to land between cliffs and rocks, the lifeboat capsized twice in the crashing surf. Only one person, second officer Richard Ayres, survived to shore.

In September 2011, 70 years after the dramatic sinking, Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc., an American salvage firm, announced the discovery of the Gairsoppa's intact wreck about 300 miles off the southwest coast of Ireland, at a depth of nearly three miles. The company was awarded an exclusive salvage contract by the British government in 2010. Here, the bow of the S.S. Gairsoppa is visible with both anchors.

The shipwreck was located using the MAK-1M (deep-tow low frequency sonar system), aboard the chartered Russian research vessel RV Yuzhmorgeologiya. Visual inspection of the site was conducted with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from the Odyssey Explorer.

Lying deeper than the Titanic, the Gairsoppa sank with 2,600 tons of pig iron, 1,765 tons of tea, 2,369 tons of general cargo and 200 tons of silver ingots and coins. The U.K. Ministry of War Transport paid an insurance loss of approximately £325,000 at the time for silver bars lost with the ship.

When the ship was located, the robot-captured video footage showed a unique view into the rusty ship. This image reveals a ladder leading to the forecastle deck, a stern compass, tea chests and even an intact toilet.

Although the video did not show any precious metal, the Odyssey crew was confident that it was still there. Using advanced robotics, as seen here, the deep sea explorer identified the silver bars and in July 2012 announced the recovery of 48 tons of silver from the sunken cargo ship.

This record-breaking operation has produced the heaviest and deepest recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck. The treasure hunters have so far recovered 1,203 bars of silver (a total of 1.4 million ounces). Based on current precious metal prices, they are valued at $38 million.

According to Odyssey, the bars of silver recovered so far represent only about 20 percent of all the bullion residing in the Gairsoppa. Records suggest the Gairsoppa carried a cargo of silver worth £600,000 at the time, which would equate to approximately 7 million ounces of silver. "One record clearly indicates that 2,817 silver bars were loaded at one port and another report lists an unconfirmed amount of silver (most likely coinage)," the company said. "The difference between the amount paid out under the War Risk policy (£325,000) and the £600,000 sterling referenced in contemporary documents is possibly explained by additional uninsured government-owned silver aboard," Odyssey stated. Under the agreement with the British government, Odyssey will retain 80 percent of the silver's value.

WATCH VIDEO: See how Odyssey finds and recovers sunken treasure.