Roman-era swords, likely Jewish rebel booty, unearthed in Israel

Four 1,900-year-old swords, complete with wooden and leather scabbards, have been discovered in a remote cave in an Israeli desert, leading archaeologists to believe they were the booty of Jews who rose up against Roman rule. The fashioning of three of the blades recalls Roman “spatha” swords, and the fourth has a ring-pommel handle consistent with the period, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said. The rare find included a shafted Roman “pilum” spear.

The desert location, overlooking the Dead Sea, was a hideout for Jewish rebels against the Romans, who controlled what was then Judea between the first century BC and second century AD. A coin from the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-135 AD was found at the entrance to the cave.

“The hiding of the swords and the pilum in deep cracks in the isolated cave … hints that the weapons were taken as booty from Roman soldiers or from the battlefield,” IAA archaeologist Eitan Klein said in a statement. “Obviously, the rebels did not want to be caught by the Roman authorities carrying these weapons.” (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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