Five ancient coins – believed to be among the first ever minted by Jews – have been found by a special project that is sifting through thousands of tons of dirt removed from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount by Muslims.

According Breaking Israel News, five coins were found. Three were in pristine condition and two showed signs of wear.

They have the letters “YHD,” or Yehud, which, the report said, is the Aramaic name for the biblical kingdom of Judea.

They date to about the end of the fourth century B.C.

They were found, the report said, “as part of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, an archaeological initiative started in order to sift thousands of tons of dirt illegally excavated and dumped in the Kidron Valley by the Islamic Waqf in 1999.”

“The Waqf excavations compromised the archaeological integrity of the Temple Mount and sparked outrage in Israel, leading many to suggest that the Waqf was intentionally attempting to eradicate evidence of two Jewish Temples which stood on the Mount for over 800 years,” the report said.

Zachi Dvira, a leader of the sifting project, said only five other such coins have been found in some 150 years of digging at ancient Jerusalem sites.

The aim of the 15-year-old sifting project is to salvage religious and historical artifacts from the rubble removed by the Muslims.

The report said, “More than half a million artifacts have been pulled from the rubble so far by over 200,000 participants, including 6,000 ancient coins.”

Dvira told Ynet news in Israel: “These were the first coins ever minted by Jews. They express the people’s return to their land after the Babylonian exile, and their ability to hold and maintain diplomatic ties with the ruling empire – then Persia – similar to our relations with the United States today.”

Just a year ago, UNESCO adopted a resolution that claimed the Jewish people have no ties to the Temple Mount. The organization instead called the historic site for both Judaism and Christianity an “Islamic” site.

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