In time for Chanukah: 1st evidence in Judean Desert of Maccabean revolt 2200 years ago

The coins will be displayed at the Hasmonean Museum in Modi‘in as part of “Israel Heritage Week” during the eight-day holiday of Chanukah, which begins this year on Dec. 18.

By World Israel News Staff

A rare wooden box containing silver coins, likely hidden at the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt against the Greek Seleucids, was found in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea, the Israeli government announced Tuesday just before Chanukah, which marks the Jewish victory over the Seleucids.

This “absolutely unique” find is “the first clear archaeological evidence that the Judean Desert caves played an active role at the stage of the activities of the Jewish rebels or the fugitives in the early days of the Maccabean Revolt, or the events that led up to them,” the press release quoted Dr. Eitan Klein of the Israel Antiquities Authority as saying.

The lathe-turned box containing 15 coins from the reign of Antiochus IV was hidden in a crack in the Muraba‘at Cave in the Darageh Stream Nature Reserve about 2,200 years ago and discovered during excavations there last May.

The upper part of the box was filled with packed earth and small stones. A purple woolen cloth covering the coins was found underneath the dirt and pebbles.

The coins were minted during Ptolemy VI’s reign over Egypt while his uncle Antiochos IV Epiphanes (“the Wicked”) ruled the Seleucid Kingdom, which included Judea. The three earliest coins were minted in 176/5 BCE, and the latest dated to 171/0 BCE. The name “Shalmai” in Aramaic script was cut into one of the coins.

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“It is interesting to try to visualize the person who fled to the cave and hid his personal property here intending to return to collect it. The person was probably killed in the battles, and he did not return to collect his possessions that awaited almost 2,200 years until we retrieved it,” Klein said.

The find was uncovered during the March to May Judean Desert Excavation and Survey Project led by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Archaeological Office for the Military Administration of Judea and Samaria, in cooperation with the Ministry for Jerusalem and Heritage.