Spelunkers exploring a cave in the northern part of Israel discovered a surprising find, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.
A cache of rare coins and silver and bronze objects dating back 2,300 years were uncovered, a month after the discovery of gold treasure by divers off the coast of Caesarea.
Officials at the IAA believe the find is one of the most important discoveries found in northern Israel in recent years. Experts estimate it will take several years to understand what other secrets are being hidden inside the cave.
According to the IAA, two weeks ago, Reuven Zakai, his son Chen and their friend Lior Halony, all members of the Israeli Caving Club, were making preliminary preparations for the club to visit one of the largest and well-hidden stalactite caves in the north.
Upon lowering themselves into the cave, the trio wriggled through a narrow passage in the front of the cave and wandered for several hours in exploration.
Chen, 21-years-old and the youngest member of the group, said he forced his way into one of the narrow niches of the cave when he suddenly caught sight of a shining object. He discovered two ancient silver coins, which IAA officials later confirmed were minted during the reign of Alexander the Great who conquered Israel at the beginning of the Hellenistic period in the late 4th century BCE.
Silver jewelry, including rings, bracelets and earrings, were found alongside the coins. The objects were concealed in the cave, inside a cloth pouch, some 2,300 years ago.
According to archaeologists at the IAA, “The valuables might have been hidden in the cave by local residents who fled there during the period of governmental unrest stemming from the death of Alexander, a time when the Wars of the Diadochi broke out in Israel between Alexander’s heirs following his death. Presumably the cache was hidden in the hope of better days, but today we know that whoever buried the treasure never returned to collect it.”
Upon discovering the rare artifacts, the spelunkers reported their find to the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Theft in the IAA. Officials entered the cave this past weekend, together with members of the Israeli Caving Club, to explore further.
IAA inspectors excitedly uncovered evidence of human habitation that occurred inside the cave over extended periods of time.
Officials believe that based upon early findings, artifacts inside the cave first date to the Chalcolithic period circa 6,000 years ago; from the Early Bronze Age circa 5,000 years ago, the Biblical period 3,000 years ago and the Hellenistic period approximately 2,300 years ago.
Numerous pottery vessels were also discovered in the cave. In some regions of the cave ancient pottery vessels were found on which stalagmites had developed. Some of the pottery vessels had bonded with the limestone sediments and cannot be separated.
IAA officials said that the combination of a stalactite cave with archaeological finds “is both fascinating and rare.”
Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, commended the three members of the caving club. “They understood the importance of the archaeological discovery and exhibited exemplary civic behavior by immediately bringing these impressive archaeological finds to the attention of the IAA,” he stated.
“After the gold treasure from Caesarea, this is the second time in the past month that citizens have reported significant archeological finds and we welcome this important trend. Thanks to these citizens’ awareness, researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority will be able to expand the existing archaeological knowledge about the development of society and culture in the Land of Israel in antiquity.”