You can bookmark articles to Read Later

Cave Explorers Find 4th Century BC Treasure Trove

March 10, 2015

“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”  (Isaiah 45:3)

For the second time in a month, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has announced the discovery of an astounding treasure trove.

Just weeks ago, divers exploring the Mediterranean harbor in Israel’s Caesarea National Park spied gold coins glittering on the seabed—nearly 2,000 gold coins dating back more than 1,000 years.

Now cave explorers (spelunkers) have found a treasure even more ancient.

According to members of the Israeli Caving Club, Reuven Zakai, his son Chen, and a friend were exploring a cave full of stalactites (calcium salts formed into icicle-shaped formations) when they sighted a crevice.  Chen Zakai tucked his arm into the narrow gap and felt two silver coins resting on a boulder.  (Times of Israel)

The coins were minted by Alexander the Great, who ruled the region in late fourth century BC.  Along with the coins were some intricately detailed jewelry in very good condition and other treasures.

Alexander the Great-Hellenism-coin

This Alexander of Macedon coin was part of the silver cache.  (IAA photo by Shmuel Magal)

After the death of Alexander the Great, the competition for the Macedonian empire across Egypt, Syria, Persia and India perhaps prompted a family in northern Israel to hide their wealth in case of seizure.

“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,” an IAA statement reads.

The stash of silver jewelry, coins and agate beads were placed inside a clay lamp in the hopes of preserving the fortune deep within the limestone cave.  There they remained until the cave explorers found it this February.

Reuven Zakai described his excitement in discovering the five silver bracelets and two silver coins showing the face of Alexander the Great, a set of earrings, a stone, a glass signet, and eight white-and-black agate beads.

“You find here and there pieces of pottery and such, but a trove on a level like this where someone hid all their valuables—it was elating,” he said.  (Times of Israel)

Cave explorers discovered a unique ancient treasure.  Pictured here are two coins of Alexander of Macedon, three rings, four bracelets, two decorated earrings, three other earrings  and a small stone weight. (Israel Antiquities Photo by Clara Amit)

Cave explorers discovered a unique ancient treasure.  Pictured here are two coins of Alexander of Macedon, three rings, four bracelets, two decorated earrings, three other earrings and a small stone weight.  (Israel Antiquities Photo by Clara Amit)

The explorers brought the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority with concern about the high traffic to the cave, and were received by Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy director of the IAA Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit.

“These items were valuable to these people.  They didn’t make an effort, enter an inaccessible cave, crawl deep inside and hide it in a hard-to-reach fissure for nothing,” Klein said, adding that the agate beads “look brand new, like they were just bought.”

The 2,300-year-old treasure amounted to “something very, very unique,” Klein told CNN.

“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,” he said.

Archaeologists are now aiming to pinpoint the mint dates of the coins, which show Alexander on one side of the metal and an enthroned Zeus on the other side.

The location of the cave is being kept a secret to avoid robbery and attracting inexperienced explorers who could get hurt among the many dark pits and caverns. 

report article corrections