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British tourist unearths treasure

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Nadine Ross with the 24-carat coins

An amateur British archaeologist has discovered almost 300 gold coins dating from the 7th Century at a dig just outside Jerusalem's Old City.

Birmingham woman Nadine Ross, 34, found the solid 24-carat coins under a large rock in a car park.

The coins date back to the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, before the Persians conquered Jerusalem in 614.

Ms Ross is being feted for finding one of the largest and most impressive coin hoards ever discovered in Jerusalem.

She had been volunteering at the site for the past month and found the coins in the last week of her stay in the city.

"It's very, very exciting... we've had pottery, we've had glass, but we've had nothing like this," said Ms Ross, who normally works as an engineer for BMW.

Impressive hoard

This is one of the largest and most impressive coin hoards ever discovered in Jerusalem
Israel Antiquities Authority

Dr Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets are the archaeologists who oversaw the dig for the last year.

"This is one of the largest and most impressive coin hoards ever discovered in Jerusalem - certainly the largest and most important of its period," they said in a joint statement on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

"Since no pottery vessel was discovered adjacent to the hoard, we can assume that it was concealed inside a hidden niche in one of the walls of the building," they said.

Dr Doron Ben-Ami says the coins were probably hidden by someone fleeing the Persian attack on Jerusalem in the early 7th Century.

The coins all show the Roman Emperor Heraclius - one side of the coins features him in uniform, clasping a cross in his hand.

During their attack, the Persians took the wooden cross on which Christians believe Jesus was crucified away from Jerusalem.

Heraclius brought it back to the city's Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the height of his power in the year 630, eight years before the Arab Muslim conquest of the city.

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