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Judaea Coin Find Aids Theory of Ancient Revolt
bar-kokhba revolt coinageBy Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
November 04, 2009
bar-kokhba revolt coinage



What is generally called the Bar-Kokhba Revolt or Second Revolt of Judaea against the Romans took place in Roman occupied Judaea between A.D. 132 and 136. The name Bar-Kokhba comes from the name of the leader of the unsuccessful revolt.

The alleged final stand of Shimon Bar-Kokhba’s army is believed to have taken place at Betar. Betar is near the current Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit on the West Bank outside Jerusalem. Following the defeat of the Jews it has been assumed the surviving rebels fled to caves both in populated areas and in the more remote Judean desert.

A recently discovered hoard of approximately 120 gold, silver and bronze coins, pottery and weapons in a cave “in the Judaean Hills near Jerusalem” now appears to support that theory with physical evidence.

Details regarding the coinage find are still being learned, but the Web site IsraelNN.com reported the coins were found in three batches “in a deep cavern in a nature reserve.”

The coins were easy to date to the time of the Second Revolt since most were Roman coins used as host planchets for coins re-issued by the rebels. Jewish images and words, including the façade of the Temple in Jerusalem and a slogan translating to “for the freedom of Jerusalem,” often appear.

Hebrew University Associate Professor Amos Frumkin said, “This discovery verifies the assumption that the refugees of the revolt fled to caves in the center of a populated area in addition to the caves found in more isolated areas of the Judean desert.”

Bar-Ilan University (Tel Aviv) spokesman Dr. Boaz Zissu added one of the “fascinating aspects of the Bar-Kokhba revolt is the intensive use by the rebels and Jewish refugees of natural and manmade caves.” Hebrew University and Bar-Ilan University are jointly studying the caves.

The coins, most of which are described as showing little evidence of circulation, were found in a hidden wing of the cave. The only opening, according to several sources, was through a narrow, dangerous approach. Beyond this opening is a small chamber that leads to a hall where it is believed Bar-Kokhba’s army may have been hiding.

The coinage find may serve as an index fossil for archaeologists, but the find is of interest to coin collectors and numismatists as well. Several non-numismatic news sources agreed it is the largest group of coins of the Second Revolt ever to be found.

IsraelNN.com reported, “Bar-Kokhba coins of this quality and quantity have never before been discovered in one location by researchers in the Land of Israel, although antiquities looters have found and sold large numbers of coins from this period.”

David Hendin of New York, an expert in ancient Judaean coins, put the find into perspective for this World Coin News article, saying: “Leo Mildenberg reported on several hoards of Bar-Kokhba coins in the 1970s and early 1980s that apparently consisted of up to thousands of coins. Most of those coins ended up in the market. The find you report is extraordinary because it was from a controlled scientific excavation, and therefore it will tell us much more about the coins and the people who used them than the coins alone.”

Hendin added, “[As] far as the market, I do not see many fresh Bar-Kokhba coins coming from Israel. This is probably due to both fewer being found and strict regulations on commerce. There are thousands of Bar-Kokhba bronze and silver coins in collections and in trade, since they have been discovered, bought and sold for nearly 200 years.”

“I had the pleasure to meet Boaz Zissu some years ago and he is a very sharp young archaeologist who has done a lot of work in the caves where Bar-Kokhba’s men hid, and this is an extension of that work,” said Hendin.

Ancient and Judaica coin dealer William Rosenblum of Evergreen, Colo., thoughtfully added, “At the moment the archaeology community seems intent on keeping coins out of the hands of numismatists so it will be interesting to see what becomes of the ‘hoard’.”



More Resources:

Ultimate Standard Catalog of World Coins 5-CD Set (1600-Present)

2010 U.S. Coin Digest, The Complete Guide to Current Market Values

Standard Guide to Small-Size U.S. Paper Money, 1928 to Date





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