Aug 12, 2010, 12:04 GMT
The coin, uncovered in the northern area of Tel Kedesh on the border with Lebanon, was minted in Alexandria in 191 BC and bears the name of Arsinoe II Philadephus, the wife of Ptolemy II Philadephus.
The face of the coin depicts Arsinoe II, and the reverse side shows two overlapping cornucopias decorated with fillets. The coin, which weighs around 28 grams, is almost six times heavier than other ancient gold coins previously found in Israel.
According to Dr Donald T. Ariel, head of the Coin Department at the IAA, the find is 'beautiful and in excellent preservation.'
'This extraordinary coin was apparently not in popular or commercial use, but had a symbolic function. The coin may have had a ceremonial function related to a festival in honour of Queen Arsinoe, who was deified in her lifetime,' he said.
He noted that it was 'rare' to find gold coins in Israel which dated from after the area came under Seleucid rule, around 200 BC.
Prior to that, the region was ruled by the Syrian-Hellenic Ptolomies. The only other gold Ptolemic coin found in Israel weighs less than two grams,' Ariel said.
The excavations at Tel Kedesh have been under way since 1997 and have so far uncovered a large Persian/Hellenistic administrative building, complete with reception halls, dining facilities, store rooms and an archive.