Archaeologists diving in the Mediterranean off Israel have discovered a bronze coin on the seabed dating from one of the Roman Empirethe most peaceful eras. One side of the coin depicts Luna (Selena in Greek), the Roman goddess of moonwith Cancer, the astrological sign of Cancer, below her.
The team spotted the roughly 1,850-year-old bronze coin while exploring off the coast of Haifa in northern Israel.
“This is the first time such a coin has been found off the coast of Israel,” said Jacob Sharvit, director of the Maritime Archeology Division of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), said in a statement.
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The coin was minted during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius, between 138 and 161 AD. Antoninus Pius ruled after Emperor Hadrian, who attempted to exterminate the Jews and Romanize the people in the province of Judea, according to Britannica (opens in new tab). For example, Hadrian sold Jewish prisoners into slavery, banned the teaching of the Torah, and gave a new name to the province of Judea: Syria Palestine, reports Britannica. Conditions improved for the Jewish people under Antoninus Pius, according to The Jerusalem Post (opens in new tab)who reports that it took Antoninus Pius only about a year to revoke the edicts directed against the Jews.
Antoninus Pius is generally known as one of the last emperors to rule during the Pax Romana, an era of relative peace in Rome between 27 BC and AD 180. Instead of using military force to solve problems, Antoninus Pius was known for delegating regional differences through local governors, according to the statement.
The Cancer coin belongs to a set of 13 coins that depict astrological signs. The twelve depict one astrological sign each, while the 13th depicts the entire zodiac, said Lior Sandberg, a coin expert at the IAA. The Times of Israel (opens in new tab).
“Israel’s Mediterranean shores and waters have yielded many archaeological sites and finds that attest to ancient connections between Mediterranean ports and their countries,” Sharvit said in the statement.
The coin flipped itself partly green through the ages; bronze is made of tin and copper, and when the copper is exposed to oxygen and water, it forms an oxide layer, Live Science previously reported. This layer gets thicker over time until the copper beneath the layer is no longer exposed to air and can no longer react to it.
“As the oxide film matures and takes on more color, it will begin to rise [change]ranging from yellow-reds, blues and up to a greenish color,” Paul Fraile, advanced senior engineer for corrosion treatments at Suez Water Technologies & Solutions in Pennsylvania, previously told Live Science.
“These finds, which were lost at sea and out of sight for hundreds and thousands of years, were extremely well preserved,” Sharvit said. “Some are extremely rare and their discovery adds pieces to the historical puzzle of the country’s past.”
Originally published on Live Science.