Some of the ancient coins found in the suspect's home
Some of the ancient coins found in the suspect's homeYaron Bibas, Israel Antiquities Authority

A total of 232 coins stolen from various antiquities sites in northern Israel were found this week in the home of a resident of the northern town of Kafr Kanna.

The coins were located as part of an operation by the Unit for Prevention of Antiquities Robberies and policemen from the Kafr Kanna police station. The suspect is under arrest and was interrogated by police. In the coming days, his file will be transferred for the preparation of an indictment.

In the interrogation, the suspect as understood to be a "repeat offender" who has already been caught red-handed twice in the past, digging in the earth and searching for antiquities with metal detectors, without the proper permits. In both cases, the suspect was tried and charged in court.

Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) investigators identified coins from the Persian period in the fifth century BCE to coins from 500 years ago, including from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, among those found in the suspect's home. All of the coins were confiscated as legal proofs.

According to Nir Distelfeld, supervisor of the IAA's Unit for Prevention of Antiquities Robberies, "it is important that the public know that any digging at an antiquities site or discovery of antiquities, even on private property, requires immediate reporting to the Antiquities Authority. It is enraging that because of an appetite for money, there are those who destroy and harm antiquities, and prevent the entire public from enjoying the legacy which belongs to all of us."

Dr. Eitan Klein, the unit's deputy director, noted: "Ancient coins are objects of great scientific importance, since they can provide the best and most accurate dates and context for archaeological findings. Unfortunately, we are witness to a growing trend of civilians who purchase metal detectors and go and search for ancient coins at archaeological sites without receiving a permit. They remove the coins from their archaeological context, where they were placed at the time of the site, and by doing so critically harm the coins' scientific value. A coin which was stolen from an archaeological site is an important piece of information which we will lack on the day archaeologists wish to excavate that site. In essence, it is a piece of the historical puzzle of the Land of Israel which goes missing."

The IAA said: "The supervisors of the Unit for Prevention of Antiquities Robberies work night and day to foil this illegal trend of searching without permits for antiquities, by using metal detectors. We call on the courts to increase the punishment in order to strongly deter the criminals who covet and rob Israel's historical treasures. In this fashion we can prevent the damage which is caused to Israel's archaeological sites - sites which are a legacy which belongs to the entire public, in Israel and the world."