Just a month after divers found a hoard of 10th–11th-century C.E. coins off the coast of Caesarea in Israel, spelunkers exploring a cave in northern Israel have discovered a cache of ancient jewelry and two coins of Alexander the Great.
The three spelunkers, who are members of the Israeli Caving Club, were visiting one of the largest stalactite caves in northern Israel when they spotted the well-hidden treasure. According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the explorers then reported their discovery to inspectors of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Theft.
The two silver coins discovered in the stalactite cave were minted during the reign of Alexander the Great of Macedon (r. 336–323 B.C.E.). From 334–331, Alexander led a series of campaigns against the Persians, whose empire stretched from Asia Minor and Egypt across the Middle East to northern India and central Asia. Frank Holt, a leading authority on Alexander the Great, describes the Macedonian king’s battles against the Persian Achaemenid Empire in the July/August 2001 issue of Archaeology Odyssey:
Backed by a shaky coalition of Greek city-states, Alexander led an army of 37,000 troops against Persia in the spring of 334 B.C. He soon rocked the cradle of civilization with astonishing victories: the Battle of Granicus in 334, the Battle of Issus in 333, the Siege of Tyre in 332 and the Battle of Gaugamela in 331. In just four years, Alexander overran and occupied the rich territories of the modern Middle East, including Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Iran. The Persian “King of Kings,” Darius III, lay dead, his palaces plundered and his armies—which had always outnumbered Alexander’s—scattered. At the age of 26, Alexander had become the mightiest, wealthiest and most celebrated conqueror of all time.
The coins of Alexander the Great spotted in the cave were found with silver and bronze rings, bracelets and earrings dating back 2,300 years.
“The valuables might have been hidden in the cave by local residents who fled there during the period of governmental unrest stemming from the death of Alexander, a time when the Wars of the Diadochi broke out … between Alexander’s heirs following his death,” said IAA archaeologists in a statement. “Presumably the cache was hidden in the hope of better days, but today we know that whoever buried the treasure never returned to collect it.”
Following the spelunkers’ discovery, IAA authorities visited the cave—the location of which has not yet been revealed due to security reasons. The authorities found more artifacts, including pottery vessels, which point to signs of human occupation in the cave from the Early Bronze Age through the Hellenistic period.
“Thanks to [the spelunkers’] 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,” said Amir Ganor, director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery.
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