Four hidden Roman swords found in an Israeli cave

The swords were preserved in an excellent state.
Sejal Sharma
Ancient Roman swords unearthed
Ancient Roman swords unearthed


Four Roman swords dating back 1,900 years have been discovered in a near impregnable crevice inside a small hidden cave in Israel’s En Gedi Nature Reserve in the Judean Desert.

As per the initial findings, the researchers believe that the swords were hidden by the Judean rebels after they were seized from the Roman army as booty. It was revealed from the way the swords were assembled that these kinds of swords were used regularly by the Roman soldiers stationed in Judea in the Roman period.

Four hidden Roman swords found in an Israeli cave
A cache of four 1,900-year-old, excellently preserved Roman swords

“Obviously, the rebels did not want to be caught by the Roman authorities carrying these weapons,” said Dr. Eitan Klein, one of the directors of the Judean Desert Survey Project which is being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). 

“Finding a single sword is rare—so four? It’s a dream! We rubbed our eyes to believe it,” said the researchers in a Facebook post by the IAA.

Along with the well-preserved swords, a shafted weapon, likely the head of a javelin spear, has also been unearthed.

Discovery in the Judean Desert

Incidentally, the researchers just happened to stumble upon the swords. They were visiting the cave for a totally different reason. About 50 years ago, a fragment of an ink inscription written in ancient Hebrew script was discovered on a stalactite, which is a pointed mineral formation hanging from the ceiling of the cave. The scripture belonged to the First Temple period.

The first settlement at En Gedi appears to have been in the Chalcolithic period, some 5,000 years ago. At this time, there was a major temple here, attracting pilgrims from far and wide.

The aim of the researchers was to photograph this very important piece of scripture, a lot of which wasn’t visible to the naked eye. But while on the upper level of the cave, Dr. Asaf Gayer of the Department of the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Ariel University spotted an extremely well-preserved, Roman-shafted weapon in a deep narrow crevice.

The researchers hadn’t found the swords till then, just a few pieces of wood that turned out to be parts of the swords’ scabbards, which is the sheath for holding a sword.

So, the researchers came back and carried out a survey of all the crevices in the rock, and found the four Roman swords in an almost inaccessible crevice on the upper-level areas of the cave. The length of the blades of the three swords measured between 60-65 cm, while the fourth sword was a bit shorter with a 45 cm blade.

“The swords were exceptionally well preserved, and three were found with the iron blade inside the wooden scabbards. Leather strips and wooden and metal finds belonging to the weapons were also found in the crevice. The swords had well-fashioned handles made of wood or metal,” said the press release.