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According to a Sifting Project press release publicizing the coin finds, “The relatively high number of such coins found by the Sifting Project is a result of the wet-sifting methodology perfected by the project, and the fact that the Temple Mount functioned as an administrative and commercial center during the early days of the Second Temple in addition to being the site of the Temple itself.” But it was not immediately clear to numismatic researchers that the Yehud coin class originated in Jerusalem.
During the Persian era in the Land of Israel, in addition to the Jerusalem “Yehud” coin mint, there were four other local mints which generated coins, including the Philistian, Edomite, Samarian, and Dor classes.
The pair developed a system of “wet sifting” buckets of earth over mesh screens, and sorting the materials into categories such as glass, mosaic, metal, bone, clay, and stone.
Some 70 percent of the recovered dirt has been wet-sifted to date, primarily at the project’s previous headquarters in Emek Ha Tsurim, abutting the Mount of Olives.
Only in 1977 was it resolved that Jerusalem was indeed the location of the Yehud class mint.
A pilot project, taking the wet sifting method on the road, was recently launched in which truckloads of dirt are taken to different localities and scrutinized by school pupils and community members.
These Yehud coins are a material manifestation of the era, and stem from the end of the brief Jewish rule under the Persian Empire.
According to the now deceased preeminent Israeli numismatist Yaakov Meshorer, the Yehud coins would have been minted circa 350 BCE.
But clearly based on foreign coinage, they weren’t so “Jewish” in character.
“The only Jewish symbol on these coins is the lily, characteristic of Jewish art in Jerusalem and a frequent design used in the Temple,” writes Meshorer in a 1978 Biblical Archaeology Review article, “The Holy Land in Coins.” Likewise, the principle large-denomination coinage used in the region at the time was still minted outside the Holy Land.Three extremely rare Jewish-minted coins dating from the 4th century BCE were recently discovered by the Temple Mount Sifting Project, doubling the number unearthed in ancient Jerusalem to date.These coins are among the earliest testaments to Jewish minting in the Land of Israel.However, while archaeological provenance of these coins was insecure, the coin dealers “spoke of findspots south of Jerusalem,” he writes.