4 exceptionally preserved Roman swords discovered in the Dead Sea Cave in Israel

Jerusalem (AFP) – Four Roman-era swords, with their exquisitely preserved wooden and leather handles, sheaths and steel blades 1,900 years later, have come to light in a desert cave, during recent excavations by Israeli archaeologists near the Dead Sea, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced. Wednesday. .

The cache of exceptionally intact artifacts was found about two months ago, and it tells a story of empire and rebellion, long-distance conquest and local rebellion.

The researchers, who have published their preliminary findings in a newly released book, suggest that the weapons – four swords and a spear tip, known as a pelum – were hidden in the remote cave by Jewish rebels during an uprising against the Roman Empire in the 130s.

Swords have been dated based on their classification, and have not yet been subjected to radiocarbon dating.

The discovery was part of the Antiquities Authority’s Judean Desert Survey, which aims to document and excavate caves near the Dead Sea and secure scrolls and other valuable artifacts before thieves have a chance to loot them.

The cool, dry, and stable climate of the desert caves has allowed for the exceptional preservation of organic remains, including hundreds of fragments of ancient manuscripts known as Dead Sea Scrolls.

These Jewish texts, discovered in the last century and dating back to the first two centuries B.C.E., contain the earliest known versions of the Hebrew Bible, as well as a variety of esoteric writings.

Archaeologists returned to this very cave near the desert oasis of Ein Gedi to document an inscription that was found decades earlier.

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“At the back of the cave, in one of its deepest parts, inside a niche, I was able to recover that artifact – the Roman pilum’s head, which came out in almost good condition,” said Assaf Gayer, the cave’s archaeologist. Ariel University.

But although the swords were found on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire, they were likely made in a distant European province and brought to the Judean province by soldiers in the army, said Guy Stapel, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University who specializes in the Roman army. date.

Its quality of preservation, he said, was extremely rare for Roman weapons, with only a few examples from elsewhere in the empire and beyond its borders.

“Each one of them can tell you the whole story,” he said. Future research will focus on studying their manufacture and the origin of the materials in order to glean the history of the objects and the people to which they belonged – Roman soldiers and Jewish rebels.

“They also reflect a much larger narrative of the entire Roman Empire, and the fact that through a small cave so far out on the edge of the Empire we can actually shed light on those mechanisms is the greatest joy a world can have.” ,” He said.

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