Archaeologists and cave explorers in the Judean Desert made a remarkable discovery from the time of the Bar Kochba rebellion, 1900 years ago: four swords in nearly perfect condition.
The swords were reportedly taken from the Roman army stationed nearby, according to researchers, and hastily stashed away in the cave for later use.
In a cave with a view of the Dead Sea in the Ein Gedi nature reserve, the swords and a spearhead were discovered inside sheaths made of leather and wood.
The swords hardly showed signs of centuries of use and abuse because of the dry, arid environment and the challenge of getting to the cave, which is on a rocky promontory above the reserve.
Dr. Assaf Geyer from the Ariel University Department of Archaeology, Boaz Langford, a geologist from the Institute for Earth Studies, and Shai Halevi, a photographer for the Antiquities Authority, decided to go and make multispectral pictures of the ancient inscription, which would enable them to decipher other parts of it.
The ancient Hebrew inscription was discovered on stone in the same cave fifty years earlier. Dr. Geyer located the swords and sheaths in a niche after searching the cave’s upper level.
At the cave’s entrance, a coin from the Bar Kochba era was also discovered, providing a clue as to when it was actually used.
The length and decorations of the swords allowed for identification. The shorter sword (45 cm) is a Ring Pommel, and the three longer swords (60–65 cm) are identified as Roman Spatha swords.
It was difficult for the archaeologists to contain their excitement as they described the discoveries, calling them “the dream of every archaeologist.” They continued, “To find one sword like this is rare, but four? This is a dream. Our eyes were scratched in disbelief.