JERUSALEM — Israeli archaeologists excavating caves near the Dead Sea have found nine rare silver coins believed to date back to a failed Jewish rebellion against the Romans in the second century.
The coins add another layer to the story of the families Shimon Bar Kochba led into hiding in the caves of the Judean Desert--what turned out to be the end of the second Jewish uprising against the Romans, which resulted in their exile. Archaeological finds relating to the three-year rebellion are rare.
About 2,000 coins from the rebellion are known to exist, and this is only the second time archaeologists have found such coins on a dig, said Hanan Eshel, who led the digs and is the head of the Jewish Studies and Archaeology Department at Tel Aviv's Bar Ilan University.
Of particular rarity is the largest Jewish coin ever issued, a half-ounce silver coin known as the Petra Drachma.
One side of the coin shows Jerusalem's second Jewish temple, destroyed by the Romans during the first Jewish rebellion in the year 70. The other side shows another important Jewish symbol--the image of four plants, known as the four species, used during ceremonies for the festival of Sukkot.
"Bar Kochba never minted his own coins, so what we have here is a Roman coin with the temple and the four species stamped over the portrait of the Roman emperor," Eshel said.
Historical records tell little about the rebellion or its leader.
"Neither the Jews or the Romans considered the rebellion to be a success, so very little was written about it," Eshel said. "That is why archaeological finds are so important."
Archeologists from Bar Ilan and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Center for Cave Research have been investigating caves near the Ein Gedi oasis on the shore of the Dead Sea.
With the collapse of the rebellion that broke out in the year 132, many Jews fled to the caves in the hope of avoiding the advancing Roman legions.
The nine coins were found in an otherwise empty cave, hidden under a large rock.
"It appears the people first hid their money before fleeing to caves farther in," Eshel said, adding that the money was a significant enough sum to buy a house but was abandoned because it was useless in the barren desert.
The coins will be displayed to the public at Jerusalem's Israel Museum.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Rare 2nd century coins shed light on Jewish rebellion against Roman rule
Another old item about an old event--as reported by Associated Press on April 18, 2003: