Mediaeval Bohemian coin found in Israel identified as denier of Ottokar II


Archaeologists in Israel believe they have indentified a unique mediaeval Bohemian coin found in 2009 in the former crusaders’ city of Acre. The experts say the coin was minted during the reign of King Przemysl Ottokar II in the second half of the 13th century; if that is the case, the coin would bear the earliest known depiction of the king, as well as historically the first usage of the title “King of Bohemia”. I discussed the discovery with Robert Kool from Israel Antiquities Authority.

Photo: Clara Amit / Israel Antiquities AuthorityPhoto: Clara Amit / Israel Antiquities Authority “The coin was found in a salvage excavation we were doing in the ancient crusaders’ city of Acre in the north of Israel. It was one of the most important cities of the Crusader kingdom of the 12th and 13th centuries. The excavation, done by my colleague Edna Stern, took place in a neighbourhood just north of the old city as we know it now but we know that this part of the city was part of the crusaders’ city in the 13th century.

“The coin was discovered along with another exciting discovery of pieces of marble which is extremely rare. We first focused on the marbles and we forgot about the coin. But the coin was very important because it was found on the building’s floor wedged between the floor and spolia, so it dated the discovery.”

I understand you have now established the origin of the coin – so are you sure when it was minted?

“In collaboration with Professor Boris Paskiewicz from Poland, we were able to indentify the coin, and it’s actually extremely rare coin, a unique coin as far as we know because it’s the earliest mention of the title of Rex Bohemorum, the King of Bohemia, in the Middle Ages. To top it all, the other side of the coin is also unique: instead of the usual depiction of St Wenceslas, we have a depiction of St Christopher. So both the obverse and reverse of the coins are quite unique.

“Through a rigorous comparison of the iconography of the coin and the inscription, we were able to eliminate a couple of candidates and we came to the reign of Przemysl Ottokar II.”

Acre, photo: Israeltourism, CC BY-SA 2.0Acre, photo: Israeltourism, CC BY-SA 2.0 What does the find say about the presence of nobles from Bohemia in the Holy Land? Does it provide any new information?

“It does. We have so little information about Bohemians in the Holy Land during this period. We have some information; from documents we know that pilgrims and warriors came from Bohemia to the Holy Land.

“We also have a rare document about the arrival of a group of Bohemian knights on a ship in the 13th century, coming from Sicily. We also have a small group of Bohemian coins which was found – but without any archaeological context – many years ago in Caesarea. But that’s all. So this coin is of course of immense historical value.”