JUDAEA. The Jewish War (AD 66-70). AR half-shekel (18mm, 6...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionJUDAEA. The Jewish War (AD 66-70). AR half-shekel (18mm, 6.73 gm, 12h). NGC Choice AU 5/5 - 3/5. Jerusalem (Temple?) mint, dated Year 2 (April AD 67-March AD 68). Half of a shekel (Paleo-Hebrew), ritual chalice with pearled rim, the base raised by projections on ends; Year 2 above / Jerusalem the holy (Paleo-Hebrew), staff with three pomegranate buds, globule base. Hendin 1359. TJC 195. AJC II 260, 10.
In AD 66, the people of Jerusalem rose up in revolt against the oppressive Roman occupation. The rebellion spread quickly throughout Judaea, and thousands of Romans were either massacred or forced to flee. The leaders of the revolt declared Israel an independent nation and, for the first time in Jewish history, began striking coins in silver. These coins were mainly shekels of about 13-14 grams weight, along with half-shekels weighing 6.8 grams, and a tiny handful of silver quarter-shekels. The mint was likely located within the Temple complex and the silver provided by the stockpiles of Tyrian shekels kept in the treasury. Mintage was carefully controlled for weight, fineness and and the political slogans each coin carried. For some unknown reason, half-shekels are considerably rarer than full shekels. According to the Israel Numismatic Society's Menorah Coin Project, which has made a census of known examples of Jewish War coins, more than 360 Year 2 shekels are known to have survived, but only 102 half-shekels are recorded. This is somewhat puzzling as the half-shekel is named in several ancient sources as the amount of the Temple Tax paid by every Jewish male over the age of 20, and one would think that such a denomination would be at least as common in circulation as its double. However, roughly the same survival rate applies to the Tyrian shekels and half-shekels previously used to pay the tax.
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