The history of four 1,900-year-old Roman swords discovered in an Israeli cave

Israel Ein Gedi Cave Swords

In a cave near the ancient settlement of Ein Gedi on the banks of the Dead Sea, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority have discovered an assemblage of four extremely well-preserved iron swords. For the investigators, just getting to the cave was a challenge, as it is located around 500 feet up a remote cliff face. Accessing the swords required reaching deep into a narrow crevice in the cave’s upper section.

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The three longer blades, which measure between 17 and 25 inches, are spatha swords, which replaced the shorter gladius as the primary weapon used by Roman mounted and infantry troops. The shortest weapon is a ring-pommel sword, which was also commonly used by Roman soldiers stationed in the ancient province of Judea beginning in the first century A.D. Three of the weapons were still sheathed in their original wooden scabbards.

Israel Ein Gedi Sword

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Why the swords were hidden in the cave is unknown, although a coin found near the entrance may provide some clues. The bronze coin includes an inscription reading “For the freedom of Jerusalem” and likely dates to A.D. 134 or 135.

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This coincides with the Bar Kokhba Revolt, in which Jews rebelled against Roman rule. Researchers believe that local rebels may have taken the swords from Roman soldiers and stashed them away in a secret hiding spot to be used in the conflict.

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