Ein Gedi (hikingbike.org via Youtube) (hikingbike.org via Youtube)
Ein Gedi

The cache of four swords and a shafted javelin-like weapon called a pilum was found in a crevice in a cave in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve near the Dead Sea.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

Four remarkably well-preserved 1,900-year-old swords likely used during the Jewish Revolt against Rome that were discovered in a cave were displayed to the public for the first time in Jerusalem by the Israeli Antiquities Authority on Wednesday.

“We are once again presented with thrilling findings from the Judean Desert that offer a glimpse into the daily lives of our ancestors who resided in this area about 2,000 years ago,” said Minister of Heritage Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu.

“The discovery of these swords within a cave, where a Hebrew inscription dating back to the time of the Temple was previously found, serves as further evidence of the enduring tradition of the people of Israel, emphasizing the significance of both the written word and the sword, symbolizing both our spiritual and physical heritage.”

The cache of four swords and a shafted javelin-like weapon called a pilum was found in a crevice in a cave in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve near the Dead Sea. Researchers from the Antiquities Authority and Hebrew University who examined the finds say they were apparently hidden by Jewish rebels after seizing them from the Roman army as booty.

The weapons were discovered by chance by Dr. Asaf Gayer of Ariel University, Boaz Langford of Hebrew University and Antiquities Authority photographer Shai Halevi. The three had visited the cave to take special multispectral photographs of Paleo-Hebrew inscriptions written on a stalactite, hoping to identify and decipher inscriptions not visible to the naked eye.

While on the upper level of the cave, Gayer spotted an extremely well-preserved, Roman pilum— a shafted weapon in a deep narrow crevice. He also found pieces of worked wood in an adjacent niche that turned out to be parts of the swords’ scabbards.

After reporting the find, the group returned to systematically examine the cave’s crevices. They were astonished to find the four Roman swords in an almost inaccessible crevice on the upper level of the cave. The swords were exceptionally well preserved, and three were found with the iron blade inside the wooden scabbards. Leather strips and wooden and metal finds belonging to the weapons were also found in the crevice.

The swords had well-fashioned handles made of wood or metal. The length of the blades of three swords was 60–65 cm, their dimensions identifying them as Roman spatha swords. The fourth one was shorter with c. 45 cm long blade, identified as a ring-pommel sword.

Closer examination of the swords at the Antiquities Authority confirmed that these were standard swords employed by the Roman soldiers stationed in Judea.

The Jews revolted against the Roman Empire in a series of uprisings between 66-135 CE. The revolt culminated in the destruction of the Second Temple and the city of Jerusalem, followed by the fall of Masada fortress.

“It is an honor and extremely exciting to take part in this discovery,” Gayer said. “The inscription and the weapons teach us a new chapter in the way in which the Jewish population exploited the Judean Desert caves in different periods. The wealth of finds exposes a new aspect of the ancient settlement in the Ein Gedi oasis.”

Amir Ganor, one of the directors of the Authority’s Judean Desert Survey Project, said the Negev is full of antiquities still waiting to be discovered.

“The Judean Desert doesn’t cease to surprise us. After six years of surveys and excavations, in the course of which over 800 caves were systematically recorded over an area of 170 km of cliff-line, we still discover new treasures in the caves,” Ganor said.

A preliminary article detailing the findings will be published in the volume ‘New Studies in the Archaeology of the Judean Desert: Collected Papers’, which will be launched on Wednesday evening in Jerusalem.



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