Unique Weights Discovered in Temple Mount Soil Suggest Presence of Byzantine Church

Recently, the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) has completed the research and publication of two unique Byzantine coin weights discovered in the sifting. The two weights are of the very rare four keration denomination (about 0.6g). The first is made of purple glass and bears the impression of a known Imperial stamp, suggesting that it was probably manufactured in the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, and came to Jerusalem before the Muslim conquest. The second, made of brass, bears a hitherto unknown Greek Kappa Delta (ΚΔ) marking in silver inlay, indicating that it is also of the four keration denomination. This research was conducted by PhD. candidate, Haim Shaham, who is an archaeologist and researcher in the Sifting Project. Details of the discovery were just made public in the latest volume (#18) of the Israel Numismatic Research journal.

To date, the TMSP has recovered about a dozen coin weights from the Byzantine era, which were employed to measure the mass of gold coins or coin fragments used in everyday transactions and tax payments. The principal gold coin of the Byzantine era was known as the solidus in the West and the nomisma in the East. This was a coin of very high purity (over 95%), first minted by Constantine the Great in 309 CE and weighing roughly 4.5 g. The weight of the nomisma was in turn divided into 24 sub-units called “keratia”.

The glass weight: a. image (Photos: Zev Radovan); b. drawing (Razia Richman)
Glass weight of the British Museum bearing the same stamp as the Temple Mount glass weight, but measuring 24.5 mm in diameter and weighing 4.59 g (Photo: British Museum)

The glass weight from the Temple Mount was made by ladling out a small glob of molten glass onto a flat marble or metal surface, and then impressing it in the center with an intaglio stamp. Its diameter is roughly 17 mm and is about 2 mm thick. The weight’s mass is 0.62 g, which implies it corresponds to four keratia. The obverse depicts a haloed Imperial bust above a cross-shaped monogram flanked by two smaller busts. The monogram reads EVΘAΛIOV (‘of Euthalios’ in Greek). Roughly 20 other glass weights with this same stamp impression are known today. However, the Temple Mount example is the only four-keration denomination — the others weighing either a nomisma (24 keratia), a semissis (12 keratia) or a tremissis (8 keratia).

Weights of this type have been described as ‘Imperial’ due to the presence of one or more imperial busts. The name Euthalius apparently refers to a high-ranking Byzantine official under whose authority the weights were manufactured. These weights were likely produced in, and distributed from, a central official workshop in Constantinople, between 550–650 CE.

The second unique Byzantine weight found by the TMSP is made of metal and is almost square in shape. It measures 13.0 mm x 12.9 mm x 1.6 mm and weighs 0.60 g. The weight is made of a brass alloy of 78% copper and 22% zinc  and bears a silver inlay with the Greek letters “ΚΔ”. Both the weight and the inscription leave little doubt that the denomination is four keratia — the Kappa designating the keration weight unit and the Delta signifying the number four. Square brass weights of this type were predominantly manufactured during the fifth and sixth centuries.

The Brass Weight: a. image (Photo: Zev Radovan); b. drawing (Razia Richman)

These two Temple Mount four-keration weights would have been most appropriately used to weigh gold tremissis coins cut in half or the rare half-tremissis coins. It is possible that a weight of this denomination was also needed at times, such as in the early seventh century, when the value of the base-metal coinage became so reduced that a gap between the largest common bronze coin, the follis and the smallest gold coin, the tremissis, needed to be filled by using small amounts of cut pieces of gold as currency. The four-keration denomination is half of the generally accepted “lowest” denomination of a Byzantine coin weight which is eight-keration. Consequently, four-keration weights are extremely rare, with only about four other examples known — and none, except the two Temple Mount examples, have clear archaeological provenance. Additionally, no other weights with such a KΔ inscription are known to exist, making the brass Temple Mount four-keration weight doubly unique.

The maintenance of official weights at the local level was set out in Byzantine law. For example, in 545 CE Emperor Justinian ordered that an official set of weights were ‘to be preserved in the most holy church of each city’. It is possible, if not likely, that at least one of the Temple Mount weights discovered by the TMSP was one of these “official weights”. In the case of the glass weight, it was issued by a high-ranking official of the Byzantine Empire and manufactured in a central workshop. Regarding the brass weight, while most provenanced Byzantine weights found in Israel were not inscribed with silver inlays, this weight has a very well executed inlay which is still preserved. Such an investment of craftsmanship on such a tiny weight may suggest that it was part of a more extensive set of weights, and not simply an individual’s private item. Consequently, these weights add credence to the growing body of evidence showing that activity upon the Temple Mount during the Byzantine period was greater than previously assumed. The TMSP has unearthed a multitude of artifacts dating to the Byzantine era, such as pieces of Corinthian capitals, chancel screens, patterned floor (opus sectile) tiles, around half a million tesserae from mosaic floors and thousands of roof tile fragments, as well as numerous Byzantine pottery shards and coins. This abundance of Byzantine-period artifacts stands in contrast to a commonly held view that in the Byzantine era the Temple Mount was desolate and undeveloped, and together with the recently discovered weights suggest that there might even have been a Byzantine church upon the Temple Mount.

The rare denomination of these two weights found on the Temple Mount remains a mystery. Was there a great local need to weight objects of four keratia? Or are these two finds simply the result of TMSP’s careful wet sifting, and meticulous efforts overall, relative to other archaeological projects, to uncover very small artifacts? Perhaps it is a combination of both.

Important Update: In the midst of the ongoing war, the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) is facing unprecedented challenges in securing funding. We’re reaching out to the community for support! If you share our commitment to preserving history, consider backing the project. For more details and to contribute, visit half-shekel.org. Together, we can safeguard the legacy of the Temple Mount. Please visit half-shekel.org for further details.

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1 reply
  1. David Wasley
    David Wasley says:

    Your incorrect post
    The glass weight has been interpreted
    As Christian, actually it has been posted (illustrated) upside down, …
    Represents a weighing balance (the misinterpreted cross)
    With two bags of coins in equal distribution either side
    Of the balance, the lower metaphor is to show even
    Handededness … on the right hand is good governance,
    The left hand is poor governance between parties & measures.
    Most probably an Islamic coin measure.


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