Mike Jeseritz ’93 remembers the moment 19 years ago like it was yesterday.
After reaching into a stone expecting to pull out a handful of dirt, he found himself holding several bright, shiny gold Roman coins.
“It was total shock and awe,” recalls Jeseritz. “I didn’t know if they were real or not. I’d never seen anything like it.”
Jeseritz was on one of Dr. Olin Storvick’s archaeological digs at Caesarea, Israel, when he made the discovery of a lifetime.
He was among many alumni and friends during Homecoming who helped Storvick celebrate his archaeology career and his many expeditions to excavate Caesarea.
Jeseritz’s discovery of 99 pristine gold coins from the fourth century was an immediate sensation that made headlines worldwide, except he didn’t know it at the time.
Jeseritz found the coins during the last days of the 1993 dig season, and he immediately left Israel to tour Norway. One day in Oslo he noticed CNN was broadcasting a story about a spectacular archaeological find, and he realized it was about the coins he had discovered.
“I felt like I was on top of the world,” he recalls. “I could tell people that I did that!”
For 1,600 years the coins had laid undisturbed inside a stone-grinding wheel in a space where a wooden beam would fit. A donkey tied to the beam would move the wheel and grind grain into flour.
“Our theory is that the grinding wheel had been made into a makeshift safe to hide the coins,” says Jeseritz. “If I had been a true archaeologist, I would have taken the coins out one at a time to document them. But in my excitement I was reaching in with both hands, pulling out coins.”
Jeseritz says single coins were sometimes found at Caesarea, but never rows of coins in pristine condition. The coins were minted between 344 and 395 A.D., and are on permanent display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
See the Homecoming 2012 wrap-up.