Floor deposits in ancient synagogues: a regional practice in late antique Palestine

Nili Ahipaz, Uzi Leibner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Hoards containing hundreds or thousands of coins have been found under floors of various Late Antique synagogues. The coins are so dispersed that it is clear they were never meant to be collected, but were intentionally scattered. The custom is not alluded to in any ancient Jewish source, making it hard to interpret. Archaeologists have acknowledged the phenomenon, but without dealing with its characteristics or cultural background. In this article, we first present the phenomenon with its physical settings, chronological boundaries and geographical distribution. The practice is documented in a restricted geographical region in northeastern Palestine, apparently pointing to a localized custom. The main part of the article is devoted to interpreting the phenomenon and comparing it with foundation deposits in other areas in the ancient world, concluding that it seems to have been a praxis meant to protect the building, which developed during a period in which magical practices and beliefs flourished among the Jews.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-160
Number of pages23
JournalJewish Studies Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Coins, Ancient -- Eretz Israel
  • Magic -- Middle East
  • Synagogues -- Eretz Israel
  • Jews -- Eretz Israel -- Civilization
  • Jews -- Social life and customs


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