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Author Topic: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition  (Read 6562 times)

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Offline Ecgþeow

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jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« on: April 28, 2005, 11:54:27 pm »
I've noticed that the jewish War shekels and half shekels on the market today all seem to be in nearly perfect condition with very little wear.  I couldn't find any low quality ones.  Is this because they were in use for such a short time? (or is it just a figment of my imagination? :))


Offline Robert_Brenchley

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2005, 02:09:34 am »
They were only in use for a short period, from 66/7 to the destruction of the Temple in 70. If, as seems likely, they were minted specifically for the Temple tax, they would have seen very light wear. So it's not surprising if they appear unworn!
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Offline Howard Cole

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2005, 02:30:41 am »
I don't think they were used for the temple tax.  They were issued by the Jews as a sign of their freedom and independence from Rome, especially by minting silver coins.

I do have to agree that they circulated for a very short time if at all.    Also the silver coins would have been confiscated by the Romans and melted down.  The small bronze coins may have not been confiscated like the silver, since to the Romans bronze coins were not a sign of independence.  The Romans allowed many cities and areas to issue their own bronze coins.  So, most likely the silver coins that are found are from hoards buried at the time of the Jewish War or soon after.

Offline Robert_Brenchley

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2005, 05:33:30 pm »
They were in part a symbol of independence, I agree, and at the same time the design could well indicate a fundamentalist (as we'd call it today) rejection of the images which had previously been tolerated on shekels. Given that the weight standard is similar to that of the Tyre shekel, and that these become extremely rare after the outbreak of the First Revolt, it's difficult to see how they could have been intended for anything but the Temple tax, though they could have been used for other transactions as well, of course. What I don't seem to have is any info on the fineness of these coins; for the Temple tax, they would have had to be of a very high standard of fineness to comply with the Mosaic requirement for pure silver. No shekels were struch during the bar Kochba uprising - not surprising since there was by then no Temple - and the sela and zuz were overstruck on tetradrachms and denarii respectively, showing that 'normal' standards of fineness were acceptable for these. I think your argument works better here.
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Offline Howard Cole

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2005, 06:15:52 pm »
The shekel of Tyre was 90 to 92 percent silver and minted down to 70 AD.   Roman silver coins at this time were about 80 percent silver and not acceptable for temple tax.  According to the Mishnah, temple tax had to be paid in Tyrian coinage (Mishnah, Bekhoroth 8:7)  As to the finess of the Jewish shekel, I can't find any reference for this.

At the time of the Jewish war, it must also be remembered that this was a civil war too, with different Jewish factions attacking each other.  It is not known who issued the Jewish shekels of this period.  They may have had not been connection at all with the temple at all, but I sort of doubt this.

In the Coins of the Land of Israel, Collection of the Bank of Isreal by Arie Kindler, he states the reason for the issuing of silver coins was an expression of freedom and an affront to Roman authority.
During the war, the Jews gave expression to their independance and freedom from Rome not only by striking bronze coins, but also by issuing silver coinage - an act which, within the framework of the Roman Empire, was the sole privilege of the emperor. (Page 52)

As for who or why the shekel was issued is a mystry.

Offline Robert_Brenchley

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2005, 08:43:52 pm »
We should be able to settle this one if we can discover the fineness of the coins. If it's significantly higher than other silver of the time, that would introduce sufficient problems to make it unlikely to have been a 'normal' trade coin. According to Hendin, he has seen 'at least one' shekel of 65/66 AD, and the BM lists a half shekel of the same date. That's the only evidence he puts forward to refute Meshorer's claim that minting of the Tyre shekels stopped when production of the shekel of Israel began at the beginning of the war. So they do exist, but they're undoubtedly rare. If the coins suddenly become so rare at the beginning of the war, when Jerusalem is known to have remained accessible, and the Temple functioning, up until the beginning of the siege, then one wonders what the tax was being paid with at the time, and why production became so scant.

Of course, if there's anything in Meshorer's hypothesis that production of the shekels was moved to Jerusalem, or perhaps elsewhere in Palestine, then it's easy to see why such a crisis would have occurred! If there was a nationalistic element in the production of silver, and I'm not arguing with that, then it would almost be surprising if they hadn't produced their own coin for the tax, given that it was so important to their religion.
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Offline Salem Alshdaifat

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2005, 08:55:50 pm »
Hi all
the fact that the coins was Hammered and circulated for so short time give the answer about there conditions, if those coins were struck I think they will be the best silver coins these days.
the fact that no one know who struck them insure that they were never mint for Tax issues or elss we will know by now who minted them and under whome athurity.
to make it simple why they were struck  we just have to look at the conditions when they were struck.
the Jews was fighting among them selves these days, and the Roman show no mercy dealing with this nation befor, the feeling and the dream to be united free nation was growing among many Jews, and when the time came they have to show to the people who get sick of the fighting among the groups they add Media words to tell people it is time to be united and to fight with the rebellions, and they use script as prays to god to help them, and for people to feel the tast of freedom, and to show that they broke the ties with Roman they struck the silver coins, and I wont be amazed if one day we might see even few gold coins. who knows.
Salem
best regards
Salem

Offline Robert_Brenchley

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2005, 07:46:37 am »
The fact that there's such a limited number of types shows a surprising degree of cooperation given the amount of internecine fighting. There were numverous groups, each with it's own kingly or Messianic (much the same thing at the time) claimant, with a single exception which seems to have rejected any such idea. The fact that each group wasn't issuing its own independent type is surely evidence of the underlying unanaimity.
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Offline Ibex-coins

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2005, 12:50:43 pm »
I have to agree with Robert that the silver shekels were minted for the purpose of fullfilling the temple tax.  Silver resources were painfully scarce within the area controlled by the rebels.  If they really wanted to mint a silver coin just for symbolic purposes then minting debased silver coins would have filled that requirement, while not wasting the precious silver.  The fact that they minted only two silver coins both exactly mirroring the weight and purity of shekels and half-shekels of tyre is glaring.  It is also interesting to note that the script on shekels of tyre read "tyre the holy", while jewish shekels of the revolt read, "Jerusalem the holy".  This supports the Jews using the shekels of tyre as their model for minting a coin for purposes of the temple tax.  Additionally no shekels of tyre have ever been found that were minted after the start of the Jewish revolt.  The jews were clearly trying to fill a void that had been created by the lack of new minting of shekels of tyre.
I have to say Salem that I seriously doubt that the jews ever minted a gold coin during the Jewish revolt.  Gold coins were not an importand part of the Judaean economy.  They did not serve a religious purpose and at no time in ancient Jewish history did Jews ever mint Gold coins, not during the Yehud/Persian era, not during the Hasmonean epoch and not under Herod.
It is interesting to note that Josephus does discuss silver coins multiple times in his writings, but doesn not once mention gold coins.

Offline Howard Cole

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2005, 06:38:01 pm »
The issue is not that clear.  First Hendin says that the last known date on the shekel of Tyre is PKE which translates as 69/70 AD (page 428, 4th edition).  The Jewish war was from 66 to early 70 AD.    So the shekel of Tyre was still being minted until the end of the Jewish war.  Why was the shekel of Tyre still being minted while the Jewish shekel was being minted?

Now why is there only one type?  This is easy to explain.  There was one mint and most like just a few people that knew how to cut dies.  Whom ever had control of the mint made the coins.  I think the inscription was kept innocuous so as to not offend any of the different fractions that were fighting and have the mint closed down (a complete guess on my part.)

As for the purity of the silver, that is the key, I feel, to this question.  If it was as pure as the shekel of Tyre, than it might have been used as the temple tax.  But, than you will have to explain why they would accept a coin that had no real guarantee of purity (of course, unless the temple was making the coins themselves), and the hundreds of years of tradition of the use of the Tyrian shekel

It is difficult to determine purity of silver accurately in ancient times.  Yes, color could be used by this is most likely only good for a 5 to 10 percent range (my guess on the range).   But there is no touch stone method as there is with gold that will tell the purity down to 1/2 a percent.  Can you tell the difference just by looking at a coin between 92% silver and 98%?  Yes, an 80% silver, like the Roman coins, takes on a gray color.  So most likely the Jewish shekel was purer than the Roman coins, but was it as pure as the Tyrian shekel?

Until there is more evidence, I will remain cautious and go with has been published by the experts, which state that the shekel was issued as a sign of independence and freedom.

Offline Robert_Brenchley

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2005, 08:27:27 pm »
I don't see any problem with the fact that some (a few; how do you explain the rarity of wartime shekels of Tyre) continued to be minted; some Jews supported the Romans, and would hardly have been likely to use shekels of Israel!
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Offline Howard Cole

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2005, 09:04:41 pm »
Again, this comes down to what the priest at the temple would accept as temple tax.  If I remember from the Bible (and my memory may not be that good), the temple priest were supporters of Rome.  Of course, these passages in the Bible do have a pro-Roman biase.

As for rarity, both types of shekels seem to be rare.  Didn't Rome sack the temple and carry off the treasures?  Couldn't they have melted down the Tyrian shekels?  More likely the Tyrian shekels from this period were never minted in large numbers anyway (just enough for temple tax).  It must be remembered that Jerusalem was under siege at this time, and I believe the temple's revenues were greatly reduced!  Less demand, less minted.

So far, all of this has been speculation, but very interesting speculation.  ;)

Offline Ecgþeow

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2005, 01:24:29 am »
It seems to me that the war shekel is most definitely for the temple tax.  "Jerusalem the Holy" and the fact that it was silver imply that it was minted for its nationalistic value.  The Temple was the pride and glory of the Jews, so the most practical nationalist symbol had to have involved the Temple. 
As for doubts about the purity of the shekel: if the shekel was being minted right there in Jerusalem, then the Temple would probably have some influence over the minting, ensuring that the coin's purity was up to par

Offline Howard Cole

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2005, 02:31:04 am »
It seems to me that the war shekel is most definitely for the temple tax.  "Jerusalem the Holy" and the fact that it was silver imply that it was minted for its nationalistic value.  The Temple was the pride and glory of the Jews, so the most practical nationalist symbol had to have involved the Temple. 
As for doubts about the purity of the shekel: if the shekel was being minted right there in Jerusalem, then the Temple would probably have some influence over the minting, ensuring that the coin's purity was up to par


Again what proof do you have?  Just making statements without proof gets us no where.  All authorities on the Jewish shekel state it is not known who made it (Hendin and Kindler so far, not sure what Meshorer has to say, but would be very interested in hearing his words on this issue).  The solgan could have just been a rallying call among the different Jewish fractions against the Romans.  You have provided no evidence that it is related to the temple in any way and I have not read any in my sources.

As for the purity of the shekel, give me some test results or quite talking about it. 

Again, we don't know if the priest at the Temple were involved in the minting of the Jewish shekel or not.  I sort of doubt it because they had not been envolved in the minting of coins in the past, just the stating of what is acceptable or not acceptable for temple tax, which all of my sources say was the shekel of Tyre during this time period.

Offline Robert_Brenchley

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2005, 04:27:22 am »
I am actually doing my best to find out what the fineness of the shekel of Israel was. The sources about the shekel of Tyre being the coin for the tax are post-bar Kochba, when the Jews wanted to live in peace with Rome, and had well and truly distanced themselves from the rebels. So it's worth looking into, and I'm glad it's come up.
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Offline Howard Cole

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #15 on: May 01, 2005, 05:24:01 am »
Robert, I wish you much luck in your search.  As I said, I feel that the purity of the war shekels is the key to this issue.  I wish I had the time and resources to look.  It is near finals and I have a ton of papers to grade.  In addition, there are no libraries with the necessary resouces where I live.  The closest would be over 700 miles away, and then I would have to read Japanese or Chinese.

Offline Ibex-coins

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #16 on: May 01, 2005, 08:19:26 pm »
If you are interested in what Meshorer says concerning shekels of the first revolt, he says that,"The fineness of the silver is high:98% Ag or more.  In terms of weight and silver content, these shekels were in effect a continuation of the Tyrian shekels.", pg 119, A Treasurey of Jewish Coins.  On page 116 of the same chapter he indicates that the statement the Jews were making with these shekels was that for the first time there were Jewish shekels for "...for all matters pertaining to the half-shekel tribute and other payments to the temple during the Second Temple period"
Although it was not easy to detect subtley debased silver in antiquity, there were ways.  Firstly we know that in Athens there were slaves whose job it was to detect good silver coins, from poor silver coins.  I refer you to Thomas Martin's article, "Coins and Slaves in Athens",Mnemata:Papers in Memory of Nancy M. Waggoner, pgs 21-48.
Livy 32.2 also records that quasetors had ways of detecting debased silver that Rome suspected the Carthaginians were using to pay their war indemity.
Pliny the Elder in his,"Natural History",book XXXIII, chapter 132, talks about a technique popularized by Marius Gratidianus for detecting debased silver denari minted during Anthony's war with Rome.

I almost must debate the statement that the Priest were supporters of Rome, although they had been to a point, they clearly joined the Revolt.  I suggest a carefully reading of Martin Goodman's book, "The Ruling Class of Judaea".

It is true that we probably never will know who minted these coins, but in Antiquity it was common to have the mint located in or about Temples in Greece.  It is not a far stretch to hypothosis a similar senario in Judaea.

I have enjoyed this discussion very much and would love to hear other peoples views as well

Offline Howard Cole

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #17 on: May 01, 2005, 09:14:51 pm »
I will not argue with Meshorer, even if some of his points are debated by others, especially the movement of the minting of Tyrian shekels to Jerusalem during the last 50 to 80 years of their production.

So there may have been two reason for issuing these shekels, for the temple tax and as an expression of independence.

As for the slaves in Athens that detected false coins.  They were not testing the silver except for fourees with a test punch.  I have read the article and remember it well.  The main tool for their detection of counterfeits was by the appearance of the coin.

I don't have information on how silver was assayed in ancient times, but I do know about medieval times.  To test for the fineness of silver you had to do this by cuperation.  You melted the silver alloy and added flux that combined with the impurities in the silver.  The silver was left in the bottom of the ceramic container.  You compared the weight of the original silver alloy with the pure silver to get a percentage of pure silver in the alloy.  This was called testing the silver by fire. 

What is the technique that Pliny the Elder and Livy writes about.  I would really like to know about it.  I don't have access to these sources.

Offline Ibex-coins

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #18 on: May 01, 2005, 11:39:19 pm »
It has become quite vogue when someone wants to despute Meshorer's theories to refer to his theory about the movement of the minting of shekels of Tyre to Jerusalem.  It is true the perhaps a majority of numismatist, especially those working in Israel disagree with this theory.  However, that should not distract one from the major contributions that Meshorer made to the advancement of Judaean Numismatics.  Some of his theories were radical and many were provocative.  But these theories sparked more modern thinking and debate about Judaean coins than had previously occurred.  It is amazing to think about someone who wrote major numismatic references in 3 fields of numismatics, ancient jewish coins, Nabatean coins and Samarian coins.  His forth coming book will be about City coins.  It is incredible that his thoughts were usually right on in so many areas of numismatics.
As for the purity of Jewish coins which you attempt to debunk Meshorer by referring to another theory of his which is debated, perhaps I can convince you with two other references.
1) The application of SEM for Authentication of an Improtant Find of Year Five Shekels of the Jewish War, Herbert Kreindler, INJ Vol 9.
2) A Preliminary Study of the Application of SEM to the Study of Coins,  A.D. Kushlevsky and Meshorer, Scanning 2 (1979)

In Athens the aritcle I cited mentions that the slaves were not just looking for Fourees, the slaves for certifying coins in Athens were responsible for determining not just which coins were fakes, but also which coins could circulate at full value and which that could not.  But you are correct, we do not know what methods and tools were at their disposal to do so.

The Mishnah indicates that a similar control system was in place at the temple, as their are specific ways listed to invalidate a coin that was found to not be sanctioned for use for religious purposes.


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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #19 on: May 02, 2005, 03:47:00 pm »
Meshorer surely deserves to be gegarded as one of the numismatic 'greats' of the 20th Century. I thought he might have something to say on the subject, but I don't have his book yet.

Does he say which priests supported the Romans? The Temple elite (the Sadducees, and a similar group, the Boethusians) surely did; they were aristocrats and their position depended heavily on Roman patronage. But their position wasn't secure; Josephus says that the Pharisees had the support of the people against them. During the years before the First Revolt, it seems that many of the Temple priests were probably increasingly radical, and that would probably imply that they were to a degree anti-Sadducee, and possibly pro-Pharisee. The Pharisees are traditionally regarded as pro-Roman, or at least neutral, and many of them doubtless were. But Josephus maintains that the 'fourth philosophy' which seems to have provided the ideological underpinning of the revolt agreed with the Pharisees in everything except an unconquerable desire for liberty (presumably from the Romans) and a refusal to accept any king but God. That surely immplies they they were radical Pharisees! When the decision was eventually taken to cease the sacrifice on behalf of Caesar, this surely wasn't the work of the Sadducees, and my guess would be that by that point they had probably lost control, and that the majority of the 'ordinary' priests were probably taking an anti-Roman stance.
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Offline Howard Cole

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #20 on: May 02, 2005, 04:36:06 pm »

As for the purity of Jewish coins which you attempt to debunk Meshorer by referring to another theory of his which is debated, perhaps I can convince you with two other references.
1) The application of SEM for Authentication of an Improtant Find of Year Five Shekels of the Jewish War, Herbert Kreindler, INJ Vol 9.
2) A Preliminary Study of the Application of SEM to the Study of Coins,  A.D. Kushlevsky and Meshorer, Scanning 2 (1979)


I am not trying to debunk what Meshorer says about the purity of Jewish shekels.  I believe what you wrote and accept it.  I was just trying to point out some of Meshorer's theories do have problems and that maybe his conclusion that the shekel was used as temple tax may also have problems.  I never question what he said about purity.  But since the purity of the Jewish shekel is on pare if not above Tyrian shekels, I see nothing from keeping them from be accepted at the temple, except traditon.  But tradition usually gets thrown out or changed during troubled times.


Quote
In Athens the aritcle I cited mentions that the slaves were not just looking for Fourees, the slaves for certifying coins in Athens were responsible for determining not just which coins were fakes, but also which coins could circulate at full value and which that could not.  But you are correct, we do not know what methods and tools were at their disposal to do so.


If you read the article carrefully, the non-official Athenian imitations circulated at bullion value and it was up to the people making the deal to accept them.  If it was an official Athenian coin, it had to be accepted at face value, and if one of the parties in the deal refused to accept them, they could get into serious trouble.  Again this was not looking at the silver content but rather at was the coin official or not.

Fourees were removed from circulation.

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #21 on: May 03, 2005, 01:30:07 pm »
I think it's likely that there were several reasons for minting the shekels; firstly, the Temple tax. Why else would they mint silver of such a high standard of purity, when they could adulterate it, get more shekels for their silver, and still have coin as good as anyone elses? If it was a trade coin, it would have been circulating with a face value lower than its bullion value. Secondly, it was an expression of national independence, right where it mattered at the heart of the religious-cum-political setup. Thirdly, it complied strictly with the law on images. Doubtless the shekel of Tyre was still accepted; mixed hoards of shekels of Tyre and war prutoth have been found, and we don't know how readily available the shekels of Israel were. But the fact that they chose to mint a coin without images is surely significant.
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Offline David Atherton

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #22 on: May 03, 2005, 01:34:00 pm »
Have there been any estimated figures ventured on how many silver shekels were minted by the Jewish rebels?

Offline Robert_Brenchley

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #23 on: May 03, 2005, 05:15:02 pm »
Does Meshorer make any estimate of the number of dies used? That would give a clue. The Romans probably melted every one they could lay their hands on, so I suspect a pretty small proportion survived. I really must get that book soon!
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Offline Salem Alshdaifat

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Re: jewish war shekels in near perfect condition
« Reply #24 on: May 03, 2005, 05:46:10 pm »
I was looking all the past days at all what was posted, I might agree that the shekels used to pay for the Temple tax, but I wont agree that was the only reasone for Hammaring them, or elss we will just find silver coin during this Era, and we will NOT find any Bronze at all,  so to find war bronze coins will lead us to the point that the Jews didnt struck the coins for only the Tax reasons or elss they will just mint silver and no bronze at all, acording to the history of the War and acording to the situations in Judaea and even in Rome it self these days, and acording to what the Jews faced befor the war I would (my thoughts) say that they mint these coins for higher reason than the Temple Tax and even higher than any other reason, it is the feeling of freedom, and the feeling of estaplishing for the first time a Jew state without any out side Rule.
and just by looking at the script the coins have you assume that the messege of the coins was represinting the Jews situation every year, and to remember how the jews was fighting among them selves and how there were more than one group at that time, and to remember that some Jews even fought with the Roman, these things will tell you that the messege of the coins were even targeting these Jews, that the war wasent for the glory of the groups and the leaders, it was for the Jews as nation, and for Judaea to be united and free, and we see HURATH (Freedom) every where at the coins, and that was the Target and the most important thing Jews wanted to prove to the groups, people, the Jews who join Rome, and to the Roman, the messege is we are no more slaves, and we have the power among Judaea, and we are united.
still it is my veiw of the Jew war coins, and about if there is any number for the coins were Hammared or struck, I dont think any one can answer that, espicialy no one knows who gave the order to mint them.
best regards
  :Judean_mah_3: :Judean_lam_2: :Judean_alef_4: :Judean_shin_1:

 

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