A dig near Jerusalem's Temple Mount has paid off big time for a team of archaeologists from Hebrew University: They announced yesterday that they've uncovered a 1,400-year-old Byzantine-era treasure trove. Chief among the various gold and silver items recovered is a 4-inch solid gold medallion depicting a menorah; it may have decorated a Torah scroll and joins gold bracelets, earrings, and 36 gold coins, reports the Times of Israel. Researchers believe the items were brought to the area by Jews after the Persian conquest of the Byzantines in AD 614.
The Daily Mail reports that they were found near the southern wall of the Temple Mount, which it explains was once home to two biblical temples. "I have never found so much gold in my life!" the Times of Israel reports Eilat Mazer as saying at a press conference with clear excitement. "I was frozen. It was unexpected." She suggested the valuables may have been owned by the community, possibly earmarked to pay for a rebuilding effort under Persian rule. But "what is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful," she says. (Read more archaeology stories.)