The Mystery of My Old Coin. Did I Help Make History?

The following is a work of fiction (mostly) set in my hometown! It came from the fertile resources of my mind! Remember – it is fiction! It never happened – well, most of it never happened!


Sometimes, my sister, who still lives in the little town where I grew up, sends me news articles she thinks I would be interested in. I appreciate it and always read them carefully. A few years ago, one particular piece caught my attention!


In the northeast Philly section of the Inquirer, the headlines screamed, “EVIDENCE OF ANCIENT CIVILIZATION DISCOVERED IN LOCAL PARK!” Since our area was often called the Indian Valley, I assumed they were talking about an old native site that I knew dotted the area. The more I read, the more I learned otherwise. Apparently, an old guy with an old metal detector discovered an old coin in the old park where the old elementary school used to be. It had funny markings with no English. He took it down to one of those famous Philly museums who had examined and performed tests on it. They declared it to be a genuine and previously unknown coin with Assyrian markings from the 7th or 8th century BC.


There was even speculation that it might be the first example of the known-to-exist, yet never found Sennacherib half-shekel. Had Assyrians or their Phoenician allies sailed across the ocean, up the Delaware River to the Indian Valley area? If so, that coin would be the first evidence of an ancient middle eastern civilization coming to the Americas! And all of this in my little hometown in the middle of the Indian Valley! There was also a photo of folks digging up the old park, looking for further evidence of Assyrians camping by “the creek” that we all loved so much.

My father would sometimes travel to the “Holy Land” to lecture or research when I was a boy. Upon returning from one such trip when I was about eight years old, he brought me a present. I think it was around 1957 or so. Knowing I enjoyed reading through his Biblical Archaeology magazines, he brought me back an old coin he bought from a street vendor somewhere in Iraq. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he thought it was pre-Greek and very old. I cleaned it up, put it in my pocket, and carried it everywhere. It was my most treasured possession.


As a boy, I lived in a small town about 30 miles from Philadelphia. We lived just up the street from my elementary school, where in the mid-1950s, I often played in the late afternoons. Many years ago, for some tragic reason, they tore down that old elementary school. It became a park where people walked their dogs and remembered the days when they played Davy Crockett or Sennacherib, in my case, on the hill behind the school.


I started reading about old Biblical coins in my father’s books and magazines. I read about the mysterious Sennacherib half-shekel coin rumored to have been minted by that Neo-Assyrian king. His writings talked about it, but no one had ever found one.


Amateur ancient numismatics expert that I became by the time I was nine, I dubbed it my lost Sennacherib half-shekel. With it safely tucked in my pocket, I would put on a galvanized bucket for a helmet, wield an old metal file from my dad’s workshop as a sword, and run around the playground attacking the enemy swings. I was not too fond of that pole-thing with a seat all around it, that when someone ran and pushed, it went round and round making you dizzy and sometimes sick. I reserved my special Sennacherib wrath for that!


I have no idea whatever happened to that old coin of mine. These days I carry a-not-that-old Lord Lugard coin from the time of the Northern Nigerian British Colony – but that is another story. Maybe some day I will read an account of the British navy sailing up the Palanganas River in northwest Chihuahua!


Hmm, I wondered, might I have helped make history?


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