Roman ‘Zodiac’ coin with Cancer sign found in Israel


Archaeologists diving into the Mediterranean Sea by Israel have discovered a bronze coin on the seabed dating back to one of the Roman Empirethe most peaceful times. On one side, the coin depicts Luna (Selene in Greek), the Roman goddess of moonwith a crab, the astrological sign of Cancer, below her.

The team spotted the roughly 1,850-year-old bronze coin while exploring off Haifa in northern Israel.

“This is the first time such a piece has been found off the coast of Israel,” said Jacob Sharvit., director of the maritime archeology unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), said in a statement.

Related: A stash of 24-karat gold coins discovered in Israel

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 eradicate the Jews and Romanize the people in the province of Judea, according to Britannica (opens in a new tab). For example, Hadrian sold Jewish prisoners into slavery, banned the teaching of Torah and gave the province of Judea a new name: Syria Palaestina, Britannica reported. Conditions improved for the Jewish people under Antoninus Pius, according to the Jerusalem Post (opens in a new tab)who reported that it only took Antoninus Pius about a year to repeal the edicts that targeted the Jews.

In general, Antoninus Pius is known as one of the last emperors to rule during the Pax Romana, an era of relative peace in Rome between 27 BC and 180 AD. Rather than using military force to solve problems, Antoninus Pius was known to delegate regional differences. through local governors, according to the statement.

The coin representing a crab belongs to a set of 13 coins representing astrological signs. Twelve represent an astrological sign each, while the 13th represents the entire zodiac, said Lior Sandberg, a coin expert at the IAA. The Times of Israel (opens in a new tab).

“Israel’s Mediterranean shores and waters have yielded numerous archaeological sites and finds that attest to ancient connections between Mediterranean ports and the countries that border it,” Sharvit said in the statement.

Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius is considered a largely peaceful emperor. (Image credit: Photo: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

The room itself has turned partially green through the centuries; bronze is made from tin and copper, and when copper is exposed to oxygen and water, it forms an oxide layer, Live Science previously reported. This layer thickens over time, until the copper under the layer is no longer exposed to the air and can no longer react to it.

“As the oxide film matures and becomes more colorful, it will begin to [change]ranging from yellow-reds, blues and to a greenish color,” Paul Frail, senior advanced engineer in corrosion treatments at Suez Water Technologies & Solutions in Pennsylvania, previously told Live Science.

“These finds, which were lost at sea and faded from sight for hundreds and thousands of years, have been remarkably well preserved,” Sharvit said. “Some are extremely rare and their discovery completes the historical puzzle pieces of the country’s past.”

Originally posted on Live Science.

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