They are four Roman swords and were in a cave in the Judean desert. They were hidden in a narrow crevice in the rock. Perhaps they were captured by Jewish rebels during the revolt against the Romans in the 1st century. This is how the discovery of the millenary swords occurred.
“It is an extremely rare find, as it has never been found in Israel,” said Eitan Klein. He is director of the Judean Desert Survey of the Israel Antiquities Authority (AAI). “Four amazingly preserved swords, including the excellent condition of the metal, hilt and scabbards.”
They appeared in a cave near Ein Gedi National Park, near the Dead Sea. The cave is an old acquaintance of archaeologists. It contains a stalactite with a fragmentary ink inscription in ancient Hebrew script characteristic of the First Temple period. Researchers went to photograph the stalactite. One of them saw a pilum, which is a Roman weapon, extremely well preserved in a deep narrow crevice. That caught their attention.
Shortly thereafter they made the find of the millenary swords. They also found ornate handles made of wood and metal with leather straps nearby. They probably belonged to Roman soldiers and were stolen by Jewish rebels from Judea.
Coins and objects
“The blades have been so well preserved that they look like they could be picked up and used right now, even 2,000 years after they were forged,” they said. Following the discovery of the swords, archaeologists conducted an extensive excavation of the cave. They found artifacts from the Chalcolithic period (about 6,000 years ago) and the Roman period (about 2,000 years ago). At the entrance to the cave, researchers found a bronze coin from the time of the revolt against the Romans.
“This is a dramatic and exciting discovery,” said Eli Escusido, director of the AAI. He also noted that the arid climate of the Judean desert helps preserve fragile artifacts. They might otherwise be lost to the ravages of time. The climatic conditions turn this area of caves into a sort of “unique time capsule”. There it is possible to find “fragments of scrolls, coins from the Jewish revolt, leather sandals and now even swords in their sheaths, sharp as if they had just been hidden today.”