“The coin is beautiful and in excellent preservation. It is the heaviest gold coin with the highest contemporary value of any coin ever found in an excavation in Israel,” Donald T. Ariel, head of the authority’s coin department, said in a statement.
The coin weighs almost 27.71 grams (one ounce), whereas most ancient gold coins weighed 4.5 grams, he added.
It was minted in Alexandria, Egypt during the reign of Ptolemy V in 191 BC and bears the name of the wife of Ptolemy II, Arsinoe Philadephus (II).
The coin was uncovered at a site at Tel Kedesh near the border with Lebanon by a team of American archaeologists from the universities of Michigan and Minnesota.
“This extraordinary coin was apparently not in popular or commercial use, but had a symbolic function,” Dr Ariel said.
“The coin may have had a ceremonial function related to a festival in honour of Queen Arsinoe, who was deified in her lifetime.” Excavations at Tel Kedesh began in 1997 and have uncovered remains of a large Persian-Hellenistic building, complete with reception halls, dining facilities, store rooms and archive, the antiquities authority said.