The Canadian Jewish News is reporting a German doctor has decided to return a rare ancient coin he discovered on a visit to Jerusalem a quarter-century ago, although not before cleaning it.
The doctor is Tonio Sebastian Richter, and the bronze coin he found and cleaned dates back more than 1,800 years, to around 178 C.E. It’s struck to depict the profile of Roman Emperor Commodus as well as the name “Ashkelon” in Greek script.
Once Richter realized his discovery was ancient – but after he cleaned it – he began researching it, keeping it in his possession until he learned the Israel Museum was celebrating its 50th anniversary, and he decided to return the coin. The CJN reports he sent the coin to the museum along with a letter, which read: “I found this coin in the summer of 1991 when I was on an educational tour of Jerusalem. The object I found on the ground couldn’t be identified as a coin, but only as a round metal object I picked up. In Germany, I cleaned it…and discovered that it was an ancient Roman coin from Ashkelon.”
Dr. Haim Gitler, chief curator of the Israel Museum’s Archaeology Wing, received the “important” coin, which he said is larger than “the standard coins” used today.
“It might be that it was minted for a special occasion. It measures 34 millimeters (1.3 inches) across and weighs 33.4 grams (1.18 ounces). It’s exciting, because this is the only coin of its type. I believe it will be displayed in the future.”