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  • Writer's pictureBecky Neiman

The Hidden Treasures of the Judean Desert

The top find of 2023 according to National Geographic are four Roman-era swords discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea in Israel.


Ariel University’s Asaf Gayer and geologist Boaz Langford entered the cave to take multispectral images of Hebrew inscriptions found on a stalactite. But in a narrow crevice in a rock they made a rare archaeological find - four Roman era swords with their blades still sharp.


These remarkable artifacts, which range in length between 60 and 65 centimeters, have wooden and leather hilts that are in good condition and steel blades. The swords are believed to be 1900 years old and may have been the property of Jewish rebels during the Bar Kochba rebellion against the Romans.


The swords are very well-preserved due to the arid conditions in the Judean desert. Three of the swords are Roman spatha swords, with blades 23.5 to 25.5 inches long. The Roman spatha was used in war and in gladiatorial fights. The word “spatha” mean “broad blade”. The fourth, a ring-pommel sword, is shorter, with an 18-inch blade. The archaeologists also found a Roman pilum, a heavy javelin used to pierce shields.


I'm sure we're all looking forward the next Judean cave to give up its secrets.


Here's Smithsonian magazine's article about the swords of steel found in Israel.

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