Cave where ancient weapons were found, Judean Desert
Cave where ancient weapons were found, Judean DesertEmil Eljam, Israel Antiquities Authority

The prestigious National Geographic magazine published the list of the seven greatest archaeological discoveries in 2023.

First place was awarded to the hiding place for weapons in the Judean Desert, discovered by researchers of the Antiquities Authority, Ariel university and the Center for Cave Research at the Hebrew University.

It seems that the weapons were hidden by Jewish rebels who hid in caves after being taken as spoils of war from the Roman army. "Finding one such sword is rare, but four? This is a dream. We couldn’t believe our eyes," the researchers said.

"The hiding of the swords in deep crevices in an isolated cave north of Ein Gedi suggests that the weapons were taken as booty from Roman soldiers or from the battlefield and were deliberately hidden by Jewish rebels for reuse," says Dr. Eitan Klein, director of the Judean Desert survey project of the Antiquities Authority, Ministry of Heritage and the Civil Administration. "It is likely that the rebels did not want to be caught with their weapons on them, in case they encountered the Roman authorities."

With the discovery of the swords, it was decided to hold an organized archaeological excavation in the cave on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, under the guidance of researchers Oriya Amichay, Hagai Hamer, Dr. Eitan Klein and Amir Ganor. The cave was fully excavated, and findings from the Chalcolithic period (about 6,000 years ago) and the Roman period (about 2,000 years ago) were discovered. At the foot of the cave's entrance is a bronze coin from the days of the Bar Kokhba revolt – perhaps a hint of the time when the cave was used as a hiding place. Dr. Asaf Gayer from Ariel University, Boaz Langford from the Center for Cave Research at the Hebrew University, Shai Halevi from the Antiquities Authority and Dr. Guy Stiebel from Tel Aviv University are partners in the investigation of the cave and the findings.

"I am proud of the team of researchers for the worldwide recognition of the discovery," says Eli Escocido, director of the Antiquities Authority. "We are in the midst of the Hanukkah holiday, and a little light dispels a lot of darkness. The cache of weapons attributed to the rebels of the Bar Kokhba rebellion was published in the media in Israel and around the world, exactly one month before the Swords of Iron War. It is quite possible that it also inspired the choice of the name of the war. This is a chilling and exciting discovery, touching a moment in time. The exploration in the Judean Desert, led by the Antiquities Authority, was done in important cooperation with the Ministry of Heritage and the Archeology Department of the Civil Administration and it is writing new and fascinating pages in our history books."