I just returned from a week in Israel. Last year the new excavations at the Roman auxiliary fort at Yotvata came to end and so I returned to Israel for a week in order to process the remaining coin finds. The soil at Yotvata is particularly salty and corrosive and so it takes a year for our conservator to clean them chemically. I had to process coin finds from the 2006 and 2007 seasons at the same time since I canceled my flight last year upon hearing the coins from the 2006 season were not quite ready.
The fort at Yotvata was founded c. 297 AD, according to an inscription. Arie Kindler published the coin finds from the first series of excavations (Kindler 1989), conducted by Ze'ev Meshel in 1975-1976 (see Meshel 1989 for the final report). Thus far, the coins from the new excavations have been rather comparable to the sorts of coins published in Kindler's report (primarily early to mid 4th century), but at present we have a much larger sample of finds. None of the coins retrieved from the site are particularly rare or exciting in their own right, but they will provide us with valuable chronological information for the occupation of the site, which directly relates to important historical events pertaining to the site. Additionally, our finds are comparable to published finds from other sites in the region and the presence and absence of certain types can also be related to specific historical events. Since we are at a pre-publication stage, I cannot say much more now, but stay tuned for the final excavation report, on which work will soon begin and which will include a chapter listing and analyzing the numismatic finds. A short bibliography on Yotvata follows at the end of this post.
While I was in Jerusalem, I also met Donald Ariel, a numismatist at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who let me examine the coin finds from the first excavations, which Kindler published (Kindler 1989). I was most interested in checking the ones he labeled 'unidentifiable,' but I also was able to pick up a couple of mint marks on some coins, which were not read originally. This, of course, is good for my examination of coin circulation at the site and will help pin down a more specific date for the coins.
Donald Ariel also showed me the IAA's coin vault with all the coin finds from excavations in Israel and a number of interesting hoards from excavations, which are currently being processed and studied. He also informed that the IAA has put all the identifiable coin finds from Israel (c. 130,000) into a database - a valuable resource that I will have to make use of in the future.
On a personal note, other than processing the coin finds, I did find some time to enjoy the country. I spent most of my time in Jerusalem, where I was staying, and took Bryan around the Old City. He had not been to Israel before. We also traveled with some colleagues down to the Dead Sea and the springs at En Gedi, and then in the heat of the moment we decided to go ahead and drive down to the beach at Eilat for the weekend for some relaxation and scuba diving in the Red Sea. I never learned to swim, and was assured that one need not know how to swim for diving. I really enjoyed it, but, unfortunately, I lost about ten minutes trying to get comfortable putting my head underwater and getting past the psychological angst of being a few meters below the water knowing that I couldn't swim! After that, however, I really enjoyed it and look forward to trying it again.
Avner, U., Davies, G. and Magness, J. 2004a. The Roman Fort at Yotvata, 2003. Israel Exploration Journal 54:256-261.
Avner, U., Davies, G. and Magness, J. 2004b. The Roman Fort at Yotvata: Interim Report (2003). Journal of Roman Archaeology 17:405-412.
Avner, U., Davies, G. and Magness, J. 2005a. The 2003-2004 Excavations at the Roman Fort at Yotvata. Jahrbuch des Deutschen Evangelischen Instituts fur Altertumswissenschaft des Heiligen Landes 9/10:198-199.
Avner, U., Davies, G. and Magness, J. 2005b. The Roman Fort at Yotvata, 2004. Israel Exploration Journal 55:227-230.
Davies, G. and Magness, J. 2005. Yotvata – 2004. Excavations and Surveys in Israel (Hadashot Arkheologiyot) 117. Online journal, available: http://www.hadashot-esi.org.il/report_detail_eng.asp
Davies, G. and Magness, J. 2006a. The Roman Fort at Yotvata, 2005. Israel Exploration Journal 56: 105-110.
Davies, G. and Magness, J. 2006b. Yotvata – 2005. Excavations and Surveys in Israel (Hadashot Arkheologiyot) 118. Online journal, available: http://www.hadashot-esi.org.il/report_detail_eng.asp
Davies, G. and Magness, J. 2007. Yotvata – 2007. Excavations and Surveys in Israel (Hadashot Arkheologiyot) 119. Online journal, available: http://www.hadashot-esi.org.il/report_detail_eng.asp
Eck, W. 1992. Alam Costia constituerunt. Klio 74:395-400.
Kindler, A. 1989. The Numismatic Finds from the Roman Fort at Yotvata. Israel Exploration Journal 39:261-66.
Meshel, Z. 1989. A Fort at Yotvata from the Time of Diocletian. Israel Exploration Journal 39:228-238.
Roll, I. 1989. A Latin Imperial Inscription from the Time of Diocletian Found at Yotvata. Israel Exploration Journal 39:239-260.
(Photo: me in Jerusalem's Old City - yes that's the stylish AIA polo I'm sporting)