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About a month following the discovery off the coast of Caesarea of the largest trove of gold coins in Israel, spelunkers have unearthed another treasure, this time in one of the country’s largest and well-hidden northern stalactite caves. Father and son members of the Israeli Caving Club Reuven Zakai and Hen Zakai, as well as their friend Lior Zhalony, discovered a cache of rare coins and silver and bronze objects that date back 2,300 years, according to a release from the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The Zakais and Halony were prepping for a caving club expedition to the cave, investigating the area for several hours. The younger Zakai, 21, crawled through one of the cave’s narrowest passageways when he found two silver coins that were later identified as being minted during Alexander the Great’s reign. Alongside the coins was a cloth pouch containing items of silver jewelry like bracelets and earrings.
The three men reported the discovery to the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery. This past weekend, IAA officials and members of the caving club entered the cave, stumbling across other artifacts like pottery vessels. They found numerous objects, some dating back to the Chalcolithic period (6,000 years ago), the Early Bronze Age (5,000 years ago), the biblical period (3,000 years ago), and the Hellenistic period (2,300 years ago).
The combination of archaeological find and stalactite cave is unique, according to the IAA. Geologists will be able to analyze stalactite development, while archaeologists now have an easy marker to date some of the objects, given that a few of the pottery vessels bonded with limestone sediments. This gives researchers a way to trace when the stalactites formed as well as determine the artifacts’ age.
“After the gold treasure from Caesarea, this is the second time in the past month that citizens have reported significant archaeological finds and we welcome this important trend,” said Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery. “Thanks to these citizens’ awareness, researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority will be able to expand the existing archaeological knowledge about the development of society and culture in the Land of Israel in antiquity.”