Daily Israel Report

Bar-Kochba Treasure Discovered in Judean Hills

The largest-ever known stash of coins from the time of Bar-Kochba has been found in the Judean Hills (updated with photos).
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 9/9/2009, 2:52 PM / Last Update: 9/9/2009, 4:09 PM

Dr. Boaz Zissu

The largest-ever known number of coins from the time of Bar-Kochba, the Jewish leader against Roman invaders, has been discovered in the Judean Hills by cave researchers from Hebrew and Bar-Ilan Universities.

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The research team found three batches of bronze, silver and gold coins in a deep cavern in a nature reserve.

The cache of coins was found half-buried in a cave in the Judean Desert near Beitar. (Israel news photo: B. Zissu)

Pottery and weapons also were discovered during a research project by Prof. Amos Frumkin of Hebrew University and Prof. Hanan Eshel and Dr. Boaz Zissu of Bar-Ilan University.

A storage jar was also found among the treasures. (Israel news photo: B. Zissu)

They found the approximately 120 coins in a “hidden wing” of the cave where the only opening is via a narrow and dangerous approach. Beyond the opening, a small chamber leads to a hall where Bar-Kochba’s army apparently hid.

In the main hall of the cave where the coins were found. (Israel news photo: B. Zissu)

Most of the coins are in excellent condition, and Bar-Kochba's followers imprinted their own designs over the currency, which is of Roman origin.

The new imprints show Jewish images and words, including the façade of the Holy Temple and the slogan “freedom for Jerusalem.”

A selection of the coins found, polished for presentation. (Israel news photo: Sasson Tiram)

Bar-Kochba coins of this quality and quantity have never before been discovered in one location by researchers in the Land of Israel, although antiquities looters have found and sold large numbers of coins from this period.

Coins as they were found. (Israel news photo: B. Zissu)

Prof. Frumkin pointed out the significance of the particular cave, near the site of ancient Beitar, which was the site of the “last stand” of the rebels led by Bar-Kochba in their struggle against Roman rule in Judea from 132-35 CE.

Explorer B. Langford climbing in the cave. (Israel news photo: B. Zissu) 

“This discovery verifies the assumption that the refugees of the revolt fled to caves in the center of a populated area in addition to the caves found in more isolated areas of the Judean Desert,” he said.