Spelunkers Find Cache of Jewelry and Coins of Alexander the Great in Israel

Archaeology news


Silver coin of Alexander the Great, here depicted in the guise of the Greek hero Herakles wearing a lion-skin cloak, discovered in a cave in northern Israel. Photo: Shmuel Magal, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority.

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.

As the point where three of the world’s major religions converge, Israel’s history is one of the richest and most complex in the world. Sift through the archaeology and history of this ancient land in the free eBook Israel: An Archaeological Journey, and get a view of these significant Biblical sites through an archaeologist’s lens.


The 2,300-year-old cache of jewelry and two Alexander the Great coins. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority.

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.

Read the IAA press release.


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Alexander in the East
When the known world proved too small, Alexander the Great set his sights east. At its height, Alexander’s empire stretched east to India, north to the Danube River and south to the upper Nile.

Amphipolis Excavation: Discoveries in Alexander the Great-Era Tomb Dazzle the World
Dating to the time of legendary Macedonian king Alexander the Great, the Amphipolis Tomb in Greece has been making headlines around the world.

2,800-Year-Old Farmhouse Discovered in Israel
A silver coin of Alexander the Great was discovered under the floor of an ancient farmhouse in Israel.

The Ancient Library of Alexandria
Begun in 306 B.C.E., the Library of Alexandria was a research center that held one million books by the time of Jesus.


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  • Paul says

    There’s a nice little read on the Wikipedia page for Kubaba, a queen from the dynasty of Kish in Sumeria. Kish was the first city where kingship descended to after the flood in the Babylonian king list and it may be alluded to in Genesis 10:8, “Cush (Kish) became father to Nimrod,” since it was customary for kings in Mesopotamia to give themselves legitimacy as heirs to the divinely ordained kingship from Kish; “hence the saying, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord'” (Genesis 10:9). Described as one of the few women in Iraqi history to rule by her own right, Kubaba later became defied and her identity as the Hurrian goddess Hepat or Heba is who we know as Eve. It is her identity as the goddess Cybele in western Anatolia and Greece from which we have the word ‘sibyl,’ denoting a class of prophetesses, best known in the writings of the Sibylline Oracles from the Roman period.
    Perhaps the writer of the Genesis account of Adam and Eve had at his/her disposal, texts written by Hurrians settled among the Hebrews in the central hill country of the southern Levant. Known as the Jehovist writer, or ‘J,’ the author of Genesis would inspire a movement like Kubaba.
    “Doubtless J’s work startled those to whom it was read in the tenth century B.C.E., but such startlement is an attribute of the strongest literature. Shakespeare wrote no genre. What again, is ‘Troilas’ and ‘Cressida?’ It is comedy, history, tragedy, satire, yet none of those singly, and more than all of them together. What is Dante’s ‘Commedia?’ It is an epic, a comedy, a spiritual autobiographry, or a prophecy in the mode of the wild Joachim de Flora? J mixes everything available to her and produces a work so comprehensive and so universal that the entire Hebrew Bible, Greek New Testament, and Arabic Koran could be founded upon it” (“The Book of J” by David Rosenberg and Harold Bloom, p.18).
    Bloom mentions the three major monotheistic religions being founded on the book of Genesis and this recalls the prehistoric ceramic ram bearing three vessels called cornets that found in connection with the ceramic woman from Gilat and had a cultic significance.
    The pdf mentions that the figurine of the woman holding a churn atop her head (that appears to be connected to her head) “and the accompanying ram figurine were part of a fertility cult ‘centered around milk and/or water, in which birth, death and rebirth were perceived as cyclical, ensuring the revival of the dead.'”
    In the book of Job 10:10, there is a connection between milk and the formation of the embryo; “Did you not proceed to pour me out as milk itself and like cheese to curdle me?” This is not at variance with ancient Egyptian beliefs concerning the primeval waters of Nu, or Nun, as being in the embryonic state of all creation.
    “Nun is the abstract and primordial milieu symbolized by the waters, the cosmic ocean; it recalls the fact that all life, including the human fetal gestation, began in water. Then again, the first effect of the creative act is liquid, an animated water; this means that it is necessarily contains a styptic fire capable of coagulating it in the same manner as the female albuminoid liquid is coagulated by heat” (“Sacred Science; The King of Pharaonic Theocracy” by R.A. Schwaller De Lubicz, p.189).

  • Paul says

    From the “Gates to the Old City; A Book of Jewish Legends” by Raphael Patai, p.168:
    “When Alexander of Macedonia passed by a source, he sat down to eat his bread. He had with him salted fishes, and when he washed them they emitted a fragrance. Thereupon he said: ‘It would seem that this source comes from the Garden of Eden.’ Some say that he took from the water and washed his face in it, and some say that he went along the course of water until he reached the gate of Paradise. He raised his voice and cried: ‘Open me the gates!’ He was answered: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, the righteous shall enter it’ (Ps. 118:20). He said: ‘I too am king, and am highly regarded. Give me something!’ They gave him a scull. When he subsequently weighed it against all his gold and silver, it outweighed everything. He said to the rabbis: ‘What is this?’ They answered him: ‘The skull is the [housing of the] eyes of flesh and blood which are never satisfied.’ He said to them: ‘What proves this?’ Thereupon they took a little earth and covered the skull with it, and it was instantly reduced to its proper weight (B. Tam. 32b).”

  • Paul says

    This amazing discovery of a stash of jewelry and coins bearing Alexander’s profile seems to have brought us back full circle to prehistoric belief systems in an afterlife as evidenced by the interring of human skeletal remains in elaborately decorated ceramic ossuaries deep in a cave, the womb of the earth (the word for ground, “adamah, and man, “adam,” contain the root word “dm,” meaning blood), and so death was associated with rebirth.
    From the pdf, “The Gilat Women,” the ceramic votive shrine offering molded in the form of a woman has red wavy lines painted on her torso in two and three strands. On the ossuary with the human face, the mouth is a zig zag like the representation of water in Egyptian heiroglyphics particularly the words for the god Nu, the primordial water, and the goddess Nut, who was in the earliest times a water goddess.
    “Nu is the name given to the vast mass of water which existed in primeval times, and was situated presumably in the sky; it formed the material part of the great god Tem, or Atmu, who was the creator of the universe and of gods and men. In this mass, which was beleived to be of fathomless depth and of boundless extent, were the germs of all life, and all kinds of life, and for this reason the god who was the personification of water, i.e., Nu, was called the ‘Father of the Gods,’ and the ‘producer of the Great Company of the Gods.’ The watery mass of Nu was the prototype of the great World-Ocean which later ancient nations believed to surround the whole world” (“The Book of the Dead”, by E. A. Wallis Budge, Gramercy Books, p. 162).

  • Paul says

    One cannot help but notice the parallels between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the prehistoric stash of copper utensils used in ritual service at the shrine at En Gedi that was found in a cave at Nahal Mishmar, west of the Dead Sea. The artisans were likely from the Beersheba region and they were like Bezalel the son of Uri who was filled with the “spirit of God in wisdom and in understanding and in knowledge” (Exodus 31:2), and they demonstrated how advanced they were and here’s another pdf that includes a photo of the treasure where they found it. It also includes a description of the type of soil known as “loess” that the artificial caves and sunken chambers were carved into in the northern Negeb desert; as a silty windblown deposit:

  • Paul says

    It is interesting how the post-Alexander interpreters of scripture continued the tradition of Daniel from the Chaldean rule through the Persian rule (from India to Cush, Esther 1:1, with the city of Susa having prehistoric significance (when they began producing wine there the the cities of Beersheba anf Maadi began copper production, circa. 3500 B.C.E., thus giving them status as magicians that was associated with Moses’ copper serpent in Numbers 21:9) and then the ancient tradition somehow gets transmitted through space and time and lodges like a crystal in your unconscious mind like those murky-sounding tracks from the Pink Floyd “Ummagumma” album, entitled “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party.”

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