Calamos Supports Greece
GreekReporter.comGreek NewsArchaeologyFour 1,900-Year-Old Roman Swords Found in Judean Desert

Four 1,900-Year-Old Roman Swords Found in Judean Desert

Centuries-old Roman swords were unearthed in the Judean desert.
Centuries-old Roman swords were unearthed in the Judean Desert. Credit: Matt Brown / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In a remarkable archaeological discovery, experts have unearthed four ancient Roman swords dating back 1,900 years in a cave located within the Judean Desert. These historic weapons are believed to have been seized by Judean rebels during the Bar Kochba revolt and carefully concealed within a narrow crevice in the rocky terrain.

Dr. Eitan Klein, a leading figure at the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Judean Desert Survey, spoke about the extraordinary nature of this find, emphasizing its unparalleled rarity in Israel’s history. “We’re talking about an extremely rare find, the likes of which have never been found in Israel,” he remarked in a video accompanying the revelation.

“Four swords amazingly preserved, including the fine condition of the metal, the handles, and the scabbards,” he further said.

Preliminary report on the ancient swords

A preliminary report about these ancient swords has been included in the book titled New Studies in the Archaeology of the Judean Desert: Collected Papers.

This volume delves into the latest archaeological discoveries made during the Judean Desert Survey Project. To mark the release of the book, a conference is scheduled to be held in Jerusalem on Wednesday (September 6th, 2023).

The four swords were found carefully placed inside a narrow gap within a cave located near Ein Gedi National Park near the Dead Sea. Archaeologists have previously recognized this cave due to a stalactite inside it, which bears a partial inscription written in an ancient Hebrew script that is typical of the First Temple period.

The revisiting of the cave

Recently, a team comprised of Dr. Asaf Gayer from Ariel University, geologist Boaz Langford from Hebrew University, and Shai Halevi, a photographer from the Israel Antiquities Authority, revisited the cave.

Their mission was to capture images of the stalactite using multispectral photography, a technique capable of revealing hidden parts of the inscription that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

During their exploration of the cave, Dr. Gayer made an extraordinary discovery. He came across a remarkably well-preserved Roman pilum, which is a type of weapon with a long shaft. This pilum was tucked away in a deep and narrow crevice in the rock.

Additionally, in a nearby niche, he stumbled upon fragments of carved wood that, upon further examination, were identified as components of the swords’ scabbards.

The researchers promptly reported their discovery to the Israel Antiquities Authority and joined forces with the Judean Desert Archaeological Survey Team.

This team is engaged in a comprehensive, multi-year effort to survey over eight hundred caves in the Judean Desert. Their primary goal is to locate and safeguard archaeological treasures before they fall victim to looting.

Results and findings of the excavation

During this collaborative excavation, the team uncovered the four swords. Astonishingly, three of these swords still had their blades securely housed within their scabbards.

Alongside these blades, ornate handles crafted from wood and metal, along with leather strips, were also found in close proximity.

The dry climate of the Judean Desert played a crucial role in preserving these delicate artifacts, which might otherwise have deteriorated over time. Such materials, like leather and wood, are rarely found in the more humid regions of the country.

Among the swords, three of them are identified as Roman spatha swords, featuring blades measuring between 60 to 65 centimeters (23.5 to 25.5 inches) in length. The fourth weapon, known as a ring-pommel sword, is shorter, with a 45-centimeter (18-inch) blade.

These swords are believed to have originally belonged to Roman soldiers but were likely taken by Judean rebels who concealed them in the cave, either for future use or to avoid being apprehended with these stolen weapons.

The Bar Kochba revolt

The Bar Kochba revolt, which happened between 132 and 135 CE, is also known as the Second Jewish Revolt. It was a time when Jewish people rebelled against the rule of the Romans in Judea. Leading this rebellion was a man named Simon Bar Kochba.

During this tough period, say archaeologists, some swords were hidden inside a cave. This was done because it was very dangerous for Jewish people to have Roman weapons.

Dr. Klein said, “This is a very rare and unique find on an international level that will shed light on the last moments of the war between the Jewish rebels and the Roman army at the time of the Bar Kochba revolt.”

Discovery of a unique time capsule

A fascinating journey through time is currently unfolding as experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) team up with the Archaeology Department of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria. This exploration, partly funded by the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, is like discovering a unique time capsule.

The project’s financial pie is divided equally, with both the IAA and Civil Administration contributing to a third of the budget.

Earlier this year, while conducting surveys in Judean Desert caves, archaeologists stumbled upon a precious artifact—a rare half-shekel coin produced by the clandestine Bar Kochba economy. This coin provides a window into the past, offering insights into an underground economic system.

The cave survey initiative kicked off in 2017 and has yielded remarkable results. To date, it has led archaeologists to the discovery of over twenty previously unknown caves.

The excitement doesn’t stop there. In 2021, archaeologists revealed an astonishing find within one of these caves, namely previously undiscovered fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This revelation occurred some six decades after the last remnants of the Dead Sea Scrolls came to light.

Copper Age objects discovered

After uncovering the swords, archaeologists went on to conduct an extensive dig within the cave, revealing objects dating back to the Copper Age, or Chalcolithic period, approximately six thousand years ago. There were also artifacts hailing from the Roman period around two thousand years ago.

As they ventured further into the cave, a noteworthy discovery awaited them at the entrance—a bronze coin from the time of the Bar Kochba revolt. This coin holds the potential to provide vital clues about the precise time when these weapons were concealed.

Eli Escusido, the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “This is a thrilling and significant find, giving us a glimpse into a specific moment in history.”

He pointed out that not everyone may be aware that the arid conditions in the Judean Desert are conducive to preserving artifacts that might not survive in other regions of the country.

Escusido described this area as a “unique time capsule,” where it’s possible to uncover a wide range of items, from fragments of ancient scrolls and coins from the time of the Jewish Revolt to well-preserved leather sandals and, most recently, swords still in their scabbards, as sharp as if they were just hidden away today.

See all the latest news from Greece and the world at Contact our newsroom to report an update or send your story, photos and videos. Follow GR on Google News and subscribe here to our daily email!

Related Posts