Archaeologists discovered a cache of Roman swords and a spear, all over 1,900 years old, in an Israeli nature reserve, Israel’s leading archaeological institute said Wednesday.
The ancient weapons were found in a small cave within an area of isolated and inaccessible cliffs in the En Gedi Nature Reserve by the Dead Sea in the Judean wilderness, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said in a statement. The discovery was serendipitous as the archaeologists originally intended to capture and study a multispectral image of a stalactite with an ancient Hebrew inscription dating back to the First Temple period (970 BC–586 BC), the statement noted. The stalactite was reportedly discovered in the cave 50 years ago.
“While on the upper level of the cave, Asaf Gayer spotted an extremely well-preserved, Roman pilum— a shafted weapon in a deep narrow crevice. He also found pieces of worked wood in an adjacent niche that turned out to be parts of the swords’ scabbards,” the statement read. (RELATED: Archaeologists Find 3,000-Year-Old Sword In Ancient Grave, Say It ‘Almost Still Shines’)
The swords were “exceptionally well preserved,” the statement noted. They reportedly were standard swords that Roman soldiers stationed in Judea in the Roman period were armed with and that Judean rebels apparently seized from the soldiers as booty and stashed away in the cave.
“Obviously, the rebels did not want to be caught by the Roman authorities carrying these weapons,” said Dr. Eitan Klein, one of the directors of the Judean Desert Survey Project, the statement noted.
“Finding a single sword is rare—so four? It’s a dream! We rubbed our eyes to believe it,” the archaeologists said, per the statement.
The swords were reportedly presented at a press conference Wednesday with IAA Director Eli Escusido and the researchers, the statement noted. A preliminary article on the swords was anthologized in the book, “New Studies in the Archaeology of the Judean Desert: Collected Papers,” which was launched Wednesday.