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Roman Swords Discovered Beside The Dead Sea

A cache of four excellently preserved Roman swords have been discovered by Israeli researchers in a cave overlooking the Dead Sea. Three of the 1,900-year-old weapons, whose iron blades are 60-65cm long (24-26in), were still in wooden scabbards.

Roman sword discovered in Israel
Credit: Amir Ganor | Israel Antiquities Authority

They were found in a near-inaccessible crevice by a team photographing an ancient inscription on a stalactite and archaeologists believe the swords were hidden by Judean rebels after they were seized from the Roman army as booty, in the second century AD.

"This is a dramatic and exciting discovery, touching on a specific moment in time," Eli Escusido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement. Mr Escusido said that the dry desert climate around the Dead Sea enabled the preservation of artefacts that would not survive elsewhere in Israel.

"This is a unique time capsule, whereby fragments of scrolls, coins from the Jewish Revolt, leather sandals, and now even swords in their scabbards, sharp as if they had only just been hidden away today."

Cave in a cliff high above the Dead Sea
Credit: Oriya Amichai | Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeologists say the hiding of the swords in the cave suggests that the weapons were taken by Judean rebels from Roman soldiers as booty or from the battlefield. They were then purposefully hidden for reuse, possibly during the second major Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire in Judea - the Bar Kochba Revolt (132AD-135AD).

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