JERUSALEM — The treasure is believed to have lain hidden in the obscure cave for about 2,300 years.
It would’ve stayed there, stashed in a narrow cranny, even longer if three spelunkers hadn’t come across it while exploring the stalactite cave in northern Israel.
One of the cavers had forced himself into the nook when he glimpsed a shining object, according to an account from the Israel Antiquities Authority.
He found two ancient silver coins that archaeologists say were minted during the reign of Alexander the Great, who conquered the region in the late fourth century BC.
‘Hidden in the hope of better days’
Along with the coins were pieces of silver jewelry, including rings, bracelets and earrings. The whole cache is thought to have been originally contained in a cloth pouch.
“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 in Israel between Alexander’s heirs following his death,” said the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“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,” the authority said.
Even older objects found
The cavers reported their discovery to the antiquities authority, which sent officials to examine the site over the weekend.
That expedition found objects from even more ancient periods.
“At this point they believe they have found artifacts in the cave that first date to the Chalcolithic period c. 6,000 years ago; from the Early Bronze Age c. 5,000 years ago, the Biblical period 3,000 years ago and the Hellenistic period approximately 2,300 years ago,” the authority said in a statement.
One of its officials, Amir Ganor, commended the spelunkers for their “exemplary civic behavior” in reporting the find.
Their act of honesty comes less than a month after divers informed authorities of a huge trove of gold coins they found off Israel’s Mediterranean coast.