JERUSALEM, Israel -- Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar called the cache of gold coins, gold and silver jewelry, and a gold medallion found at the foot of the Temple Mount "a breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime discovery."
For Mazar, who follows her father and grandfather's footsteps as a third-generation Israeli archaeologist, calling this particular find "once in a lifetime" is really saying something.
Mazar directs the City of David excavations at the Temple Mount's southern wall, where her team's discoveries often confirm Israel's connection with its ancient past, as recorded in the Bible.
This latest find was uncovered among the ruins of a public building from the Byzantine period just 50 meters (yards) from the Temple Mount's southern wall.
"We have been making significant finds from the First Temple Period in this area, a much earlier time in Jerusalem's history, so discovering a golden seven-branched menorah from the seventh century CE [common era] at the foot of the Temple Mount was a complete surprise," Mazar said in a post on the Hebrew University website.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, himself an avid student of the Bible, expressed what many in Israel are feeling.
"This is a magnificent discovery," Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office. "Nationally, it attests to the ancient Jewish presence and to the sanctity of the place; this is as clear as the sun and it is tremendous," he explained.
"It is interesting that even then, over 500 years after the destruction of the Second Temple, we see the menorah in an original illustration. This is historic testimony, of the highest order, to the Jewish people's link to Jerusalem, to its land and to its heritage," he continued.
"This is very moving. This find is the essence of our heritage -- menorah, shofar, Torah scroll. The essence of the Jewish people could not be any more succinct and clear. This is a wonderful gift to the Jewish people. Thank you."