Alexander the Great-era coins, jewelry discovered in Israel

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

A cache of coins and jewelry dating back to the days of Alexander the Great has been discovered by spelunkers exploring a cave in northern Israel, officials there announced on Monday.

The 2,300-year-old treasures were located by three members of the Israeli Caving Club, and among the items discovered were two silver coins depicting an image of Alexander on one side and Zeus on the other, as well as rings, bracelets, earrings and a small stone weight.

cave coin

Silver coin of Alexander of Macedon (Alexander the Great). (Copyright: Shmuel Magal, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)

One of the spelunkers, Hen Zakai, spotted the coins stashed within a niche of the cave, according to Discovery News. Archaeologists believe that the currency was originally minted at the start of the Hellenistic Period during Alexander’s reign, in the late fourth century BC. Also found was a clay oil lamp containing agate stones that were part of a string of beads, the website added.

agate beads oil lamp

Photo inside the cave: agate stones that were part of a string of beads and the Hellenistic oil lamp in which the stones were kept. (Copyright: Shmuel Magal, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)

For better days

In a statement, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) explained that the valuables might have been stashed 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.”

“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,” the IAA added. The exact location of the stalactite-filled cave is being kept a secret due to the hazards it would pose to potential visitors, as well as the possibility that the archaeological strata and stalactites could be damaged.

[STORY: Crusader gold found in Castle of Arsur ruins]

During a weekend expedition to the cave, the IAA uncovered evidence of human habitation there which occurred over an extended period of time, from the Chalcolithic period 6,000 years ago to the Hellenistic period approximately 2,300 years ago, Discovery News explained. Archaeologists also uncovered several pottery vessels, including some that merged with limestone sediments.

More treasure in the area

The newly-discovered treasures, which could provide new insights on the lives of ordinary citizens living in Israel during the late fourth century BC, comes just weeks after amateur scuba divers found a cache of nearly 2,000 gold coins that had been in the waters off the Roman-era harbor of Caesarea for the past 1,000 years. That discovery was made last month.

“After the gold treasure from Caesarea, this is the second time in the past month that citizens have reported significant archeological finds and we welcome this important trend,” explained Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery in the IAA.

[STORY: Divers find largest treasure trove of gold coins off coast of Israel]

“Thanks to these citizens’ awareness, researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority will be able to expand the existing archaeological knowledge about the development of society and culture in the Land of Israel in antiquity,” Ganor added, lauding the caving club members for their find.

According to Live Science, under Israeli law, people who violate the Law of Antiquities (which states that all antiquities belonging to the state must be reported to state authorities and cannot be removed from their location, sold or traded) could face up to five years in prison.


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