Roman Swords from 1900 Years Ago Unearthed in Dead Sea Cave

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Perched high above the Dead Sea, a concealed cave has unveiled a cache of impeccably preserved Roman swords, astonishingly discovered by Israeli researchers. Dating back 1,900 years, three of these formidable iron weapons, ranging from 60-65cm (24-26in) in length, were found snugly enclosed in their original wooden scabbards.

These well-preserved artifacts were accidentally discovered in an almost inaccessible crevice, where a team was cataloging an ancient inscription on a stalactite. There’s a theory amongst archaeologists that Judean rebels had hidden the swords after confiscating them from the Roman army.

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Describing the find as both “dramatic and exciting” and a tangible link to a distinct moment in time, Eli Escusido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), added the dry desert climate of the Dead Sea region has allowed the survival of artifacts that would otherwise perish in other parts of Israel. In Escusido’s words, it’s as if these swords in their scabbards, along with fragments of scrolls, coins from the Jewish Revolt, and leather sandals, had been hidden just yesterday.

Decades earlier, a stalactite bearing an incomplete ink inscription in ancient Hebrew script was discovered in a petite cave stationed high on a cliff abutting the Dead Sea, north of the En Gedi oasis in eastern Israel. In the hopes of deciphering unseen parts of the inscription with multispectral photography, a team of experts revisited the cave.

While exploring the cave’s upper levels, Dr. Asaf Gayer uncovered a well-preserved Roman pilum, or javelin, and bits of worked wood that were revealed to be parts of the scabbards. This prompted a follow-up survey of the cave, unveiling the hidden swords.

The three completely encased swords were recognized as Roman spatha, or long swords, while the shorter, fourth sword was a ring-pommel style. The swords boasted finely crafted handles composed of either wood or metal and were found alongside associated remnants such as leather strips, and fragments of wood and metal.

Oriya Amichay, an archaeologist, likened the find to a pile of books, but on closer inspection, was astonished to find something far more precious – swords. He remarked that these physical artifacts are like looking history right in the face.

Archaeologists surmise that the stashed swords and pilum inside the cave indicate these weapons were presumably taken as spoils of war from Roman soldiers by Judean rebels and were then hidden away strategically for future use, possibly during the second major Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire in Judea, known as the Bar Kochba Revolt (132AD-135AD).

Dr. Eitan Klein, a director of the Judean Desert Survey Project is eager to dig deeper into the find, seeking answers to who owned the swords and who manufactured them, stating that, “We are just beginning the research on the cave and the weapon cache discovered in it.” This remarkable discovery exemplifies how history is not just read and written, but unexpectedly unearthed.