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May 19, 2022 2:27 pm

Ancient Coins From Jewish Revolt Against Romans Among Trove of 1,800 Stolen Artifacts Recovered in Israel

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Ancient artifacts seized by Israeli authorities. Photo: Yuli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority.

In one of the biggest recoveries in the country’s history, Israel has seized more than 1,800 ancient artifacts, including stolen coins dating back to the Bar Kochba revolt, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said Thursday.

During a raid in the central Israeli city of Modi’in on Sunday, police and the IAA’s theft prevention unit seized stolen artifacts at the home of an illegal antiquities dealer. Among the items were silver coins from the 1st-century Great Revolt against the Romans, inscribed with the words “Holy Jerusalem;” coins bearing the name “Shimon,” the first name of the Jewish leader of the 2nd-century Bar Kochba revolt; and a bronze figurine, among other rarities.

During a search of the dealer’s home, inspectors found ancient items with traces of fresh dirt, suggesting the objects were recently retrieved from illegal excavations at archeological sites around Israel. The police also found dozens of coins inside addressed postal envelopes, ready for shipment to recipients abroad.

“It’s heartbreaking to think about the many antiquity sites with heritage values that have been destroyed to make money from merchants,” IAA’s antiquities trade inspector Ilan Hadad said. “It’s the history that belongs to all of us, which can no longer be restored.”

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Among the seized artifacts are silver coins that date back to the Hellenistic period, others from the Persian and Hasmonean periods, and bronze coins from the Roman era and various Jewish coins.

Hadad said the suspect is believed to have traded antiquities without a license for a long period, and has allegedly smuggled thousands of coins from Israel abroad. The man confessed to illegal trading, smuggling hundreds of coins, and buying pirated coins from thieves and illegal traders in the Palestinian territories, bringing them into Israel illegally.

IAA Director-General Eli Eskosido noted that inspectors are faced everyday with theft and illegal trade of antiquities.

“The ancient finds belong to the state and the public,” said Eskosido. “Each coin has a unique story through which you can learn about the history and heritage of the country.”

“Unauthorized dealers of antiquities who purchase coins from robbers and thieves encourage the theft of antiquities, and [the coins] are torn from their historical context,” he added.

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