Authorities believe looted Bar Kochba artifacts were Roman army spoils

Among the findings are typical Roman cult artifacts decorated with figures and pagan symbols, which prove that they were likely the original property of Roman soldiers.

 Bar-Kochba era artifacts seized by police on December 8th.  (photo credit: YOLI SCHWARTZ/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)
Bar-Kochba era artifacts seized by police on December 8th.
(photo credit: YOLI SCHWARTZ/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

Israel Antiquities Authority investigators suspect that the archaeological finds found by Lev HaBira police last week are actually spoils of war seized from Roman soldiers by Bar Kokhba rebels.

Detectives found scores of artifacts from the Roman and Byzantine eras in a car last Wednesday. They took the suspects in for questioning and transferred the items to the authority's Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit. After further inspection, the items were identified as spoils seized by Bar Kokhba rebels.

Among the findings are typical Roman cult artifacts decorated with figures and pagan symbols, which prove that they did not belong to the Jewish rebels, as Jews considered such symbols and patterns to be akin to idol worship.

Among the ancient artifacts discovered are two ornate 2,000-year-old bronze censers that were used to burn ritual incense, as well as a bronze wine jug bearing a classic motif of a Roman banquet guest holding a jug of wine, an ornate stone tripod bowl, Roman clay lamps, and hundreds of coins dating from the Late Roman period (second-third centuries CE). The artifacts were remarkably well-preserved, according to the IAA.

“We believe that the finds that were recently recovered in Jerusalem were taken from this site.” according to the unit's director Amir Ganor. “I would like to commend the actions of the detectives from Lev HaBira police station in Jerusalem, whose vigilance led to the finds’ recovery and the success of the investigation, thus thwarting the attempted sale of unique antiquities in this instance."

“These ancient finds embody the country’s history, but for robbers and dealers they are merely a commodity, sold to the highest bidder for pure greed,” said IAA director Eli Eskozido. “It is tremendously important to prevent any attempts to deal in illegal antiquities, to recover valuable finds and to return them to the public and the State.”

 Bark Kokhba-era ornamental bronze censers used for burning incense seized by antiquity authorities on December 8th.  (credit: YOLI SCHWARTZ/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY) Bark Kokhba-era ornamental bronze censers used for burning incense seized by antiquity authorities on December 8th. (credit: YOLI SCHWARTZ/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

The three suspected thieves were arrested and a criminal investigation has begun. The Robbery Prevention Unit believes that the ancient items were taken from a hidden cache dating from the Bar Kokhba Revolt that has been under surveillance in recent months, and that the suspects brought the artifacts to Jerusalem with the aim of selling them to an antiquities dealer.