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A rare coin from time of Bar Kokhba Revolt discovered in Judean Desert

This discovery is part of a broader collection of remarkable finds unearthed recently as part of a heritage safeguarding project

The rare coin. A date palm is engraved, with the inscription “Eleazar the Priest” inscribed in ancient Hebrew script (Photo: Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority).

The Israel Antiquities Authority on Monday announced a remarkable discovery that has emerged from the depths of the Judean Desert: A rare coin dating back to the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, adorned with the name "Eleazar the Priest" in ancient Hebrew script.

Unearthed in the Matzok Ha-Hetekim Nature Reserve during the Judean Desert Cave Survey conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, in collaboration with the Ministry of Heritage and the Archaeological Office for the Military Administration of Judea and Samaria, this significant find sheds light on a tumultuous period in ancient Jewish history.

The coin, dating to the first year of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 132 C.E., was discovered alongside three other coins bearing the name "Simeon." Its inscription, "Year One of the Redemption of Israel," captures the fervent spirit of rebellion that permeated the Jewish community during this period of resistance against Roman rule. The identity of Eleazar the Priest, commemorated on the coin, remains a subject of speculation, with some suggesting it could be Rabbi Eleazar Hamod‘ai, a prominent religious figure associated with the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

The coins that were found in the desert (Photographer: oriya Amichai, Israel Antiquities Authority).

The imagery engraved on the coin is equally evocative, with a date palm adorning the obverse face and a bunch of grapes surrounded by the inscription "Year One of the Redemption of Israel" on the reverse. These symbols of fertility and prosperity likely served as powerful symbols of hope and resilience for the Jewish rebels.

The coin's discovery is part of a broader effort by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) to safeguard the archaeological treasures of the Judean Desert from looters. Since 2017, archaeologists have been conducting systematic surveys of the region, unearthing a wealth of artifacts ranging from scroll fragments of the Twelve Minor Prophets to Roman iron swords and the earliest complete basket in the world.

Excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Judean Desert. The public is invited (Photo: Emil Aladjem, IAA).

In an effort to engage the public in preserving this rich heritage, the IAA has extended an invitation for volunteers to join the upcoming excavation season in the desert. Participants will have the opportunity to work alongside archaeologists at the Murabba‘at Caves along Nahal Darga from March 1 to 21. The excavation will offer a unique blend adventure, with lodging provided at a camp in the desert and a range of educational activities.

IAA Director Eli Escusido said the Judean Desert excavations continue to yield surprises. With registration open to the public, archaeology enthusiasts are encouraged to seize this opportunity to contribute to the preservation of Israel's ancient past and uncover its hidden treasures.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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