1,900-year-old coins from Jewish revolt against the Romans discovered in the Judaen desert

A coin with an ancient Hebrew inscription.
A coin with an ancient Hebrew inscription on it that says "Eleazar the Priest." (Image credit: Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority)

Four coins dating back almost 1,900 years, to when the Jewish people launched a revolt against the Roman Empire, have been discovered in the Judaean desert.

The coins were found in the Mazuq Ha-he'teqim Nature Reserve, which is located in the West Bank. They date to the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt (A.D. 132 to 135), when the Jewish people rose up against the Roman Empire. Although the revolt had some initial success, the Romans' counterattack resulted in mass slaughter.

"Five hundred and eighty thousand men were slain in the various raids and battles, and the number of those that perished by famine, disease and fire was past finding out … thus nearly the whole of Judaea was made desolate," Roman historian Cassius Dio wrote in his book "Roman history" (translation by Earnest Cary). While the accuracy of the death toll he gives is a matter of some debate, there is no doubt that it was very high and many caves where refugees hid from the Roman army have been found in the region.

Related: 'Extremely rare' 2,500-year-old broken silver coin unearthed near Jerusalem

One coin has a Hebrew inscription that translates to "Eleazar the Priest," which may refer to Eleazar Hamod'ai, a rabbi who lived in the town of Beitar, the headquarters of the revolt, representatives for the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement. Beside Eleazar's name is an engraving of a date palm.

The other side of the "Eleazar the Priest" coin, showing grapes surrounded by the text "year one of the redemption of Israel" in ancient Hebrew script. (Image credit: Oriya Amichay/Israel Antiquities Authority)

On the other side of the coin is another Hebrew inscription, which says, "year one of the redemption of Israel." This indicates that the coin was minted in A.D. 132, during the first year of the revolt, the statement said. There is also an engraving of grapes.

The three other newly discovered coins have an inscription saying "Simeon," which may refer to Simeon (also spelled Simon) bar Kokhba, the leader of the revolt, according to the statement.

Israel Antiquities Authority researchers have been conducting a survey of the Judaean desert since 2017, in hopes of finding artifacts before they are looted. Since then, they've made a number of finds, including Roman swords and an ancient scroll containing part of the Book of Zechariah.

The work will continue with an excavation at Murabba'at Caves that will allow members of the public to volunteer.

Owen Jarus
Live Science Contributor

Owen Jarus is a regular contributor to Live Science who writes about archaeology and humans' past. He has also written for The Independent (UK), The Canadian Press (CP) and The Associated Press (AP), among others. Owen has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Toronto and a journalism degree from Ryerson University. 

  • DavidDavidson
    admin said:
    Archaeologists in the Judaen desert have found four coins dating to the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire.

    1,900-year-old coins from Jewish revolt against the Romans discovered in the Judaen desert : Read more
    I wish we could learn from our past though... In 1900 years, will we even remember the pointless leveling of Gaza in the name of a few terrorists? And honestly, many of them are fighting to be able to live in what they consider homeland. 🍉
    Reply
  • AmYisraelChai
    DavidDavidson said:
    I wish we could learn from our past though... In 1900 years, will we even remember the pointless leveling of Gaza in the name of a few terrorists? And honestly, many of them are fighting to be able to live in what they consider homeland. 🍉
    Reply
  • Yisrael
    DavidDavidson said:
    I wish we could learn from our past though... In 1900 years, will we even remember the pointless leveling of Gaza in the name of a few terrorists? And honestly, many of them are fighting to be able to live in what they consider homeland. 🍉
    You are not very bright. (The person that left the first comment.)
    A "few terrorists"?? It was over 3,000 terrorists that invaded and murdered. I'm surprised you even called them terrorists. Most excuse-making people like you call them "resistance fighters" when they murder, burn and brutalize women and take hostages. Ripping some hostages from their beds. Let Jewish people live and not take them from their home bedroom.

    This science article serves to counter revisionist history that tries to erase Jewish history from Judea. You can never erase the historical Jewish connections to that geographic area. Am Yisrael Chai.

    P.S. Your watermelon emoji is foolish as it means trying to wipe out a sovereign nation on a map. (and millions of people that already live there.)
    Reply
  • AaliyaInvaders
    Yisrael said:
    You are not very bright. (The person that left the first comment.)
    A "few terrorists"?? It was over 3,000 terrorists that invaded and murdered. I'm surprised you even called them terrorists. Most excuse-making people like you call them "resistance fighters" when they murder, burn and brutalize women and take hostages. Ripping some hostages from their beds. Let Jewish people live and not take them from their home bedroom.

    This science article serves to counter revisionist history that tries to erase Jewish history from Judea. You can never erase the historical Jewish connections to that geographic area. Am Yisrael Chai.

    P.S. Your watermelon emoji is foolish as it means trying to wipe out a sovereign nation on a map. (and millions of people that already live there.)
    Wow! People can become so blinded when it comes to their religion and ethnicity. You think we are some 10 yo kids who’ll believe whatever you people say. What’s to say that isreali archeologists didn’t plant those coins there ?
    Having said that, I don’t deny that Jewish people didn’t live in this region. But so did Arab Muslims and Christians. However, more than 80% of present day Jewish people don’t belong to this region. In 1948 Jewish population was mere 630k and then European Jewish started invading this land in the name of Aaliya, displacing the indigenous people. Now your population is around 10 million. You slaughtered Arabs and displaced them from their homes and land. You offered them mere 49% of the land even though their population was twice that of you. Over the decades you invited all yeh Jews from around the world and displaced the Arabs to accommodate your brethren. Even if there were persecuted there, that doesn’t mean you displace Arabs from their home. Based on your population then, you should get 33% share and then you can cramp it with all the Jews from around the world. Nobody would question you. But stealing someone’s share to rehabilitate your people doesn’t justify your acts.
    Besides Howcome most of the Jews in isreal look like Europeans and not like people from Middle East? If jews had fled from there thousands of years ago, how would their skin color change ? Unless of course they would marry with Europeans. But then you say they were persecuted there ? I don’t think Europeans would marry them and persecute them at the same time. So how did their skin color change over the period of time ?
    The thing is majority of the Jews in current isreal don’t belong there. It’s the fact and your “planted” coins are not going to change that fact. Jews share of this land is mere 30 to 35%. Rest belongs to the Palestinians.
    Reply
  • sko721
    AaliyaInvaders said:
    Wow! People can become so blinded when it comes to their religion and ethnicity. You think we are some 10 yo kids who’ll believe whatever you people say. What’s to say that isreali archeologists didn’t plant those coins there ?
    Having said that, I don’t deny that Jewish people didn’t live in this region. But so did Arab Muslims and Christians. However, more than 80% of present day Jewish people don’t belong to this region. In 1948 Jewish population was mere 630k and then European Jewish started invading this land in the name of Aaliya, displacing the indigenous people. Now your population is around 10 million. You slaughtered Arabs and displaced them from their homes and land. You offered them mere 49% of the land even though their population was twice that of you. Over the decades you invited all yeh Jews from around the world and displaced the Arabs to accommodate your brethren. Even if there were persecuted there, that doesn’t mean you displace Arabs from their home. Based on your population then, you should get 33% share and then you can cramp it with all the Jews from around the world. Nobody would question you. But stealing someone’s share to rehabilitate your people doesn’t justify your acts.
    Besides Howcome most of the Jews in isreal look like Europeans and not like people from Middle East? If jews had fled from there thousands of years ago, how would their skin color change ? Unless of course they would marry with Europeans. But then you say they were persecuted there ? I don’t think Europeans would marry them and persecute them at the same time. So how did their skin color change over the period of time ?
    The thing is majority of the Jews in current isreal don’t belong there. It’s the fact and your “planted” coins are not going to change that fact. Jews share of this land is mere 30 to 35%. Rest belongs to the Palestinians.
    Everything you posted is a lie. No one is fooled. Why do you lie to yourself? Most Israeli Jews are descended from Arab and Persian Jews, most of whom were expelled and had nowhere else to go except to Israel. Arab Muslims and Christians live on 99% of the Middle East. Why is Israel's 1% of the land too much for you? The British prevented Jewish immigration, which resulted in six million Jews being murdered instead of immigrating. Had they been allowed to flee and settle, Jews would have been 90%+ of the population. Why ignore the millions murdered in your demographic analysis? In 1948 Egypt and Jordan invaded, occupied, and annexed what would have become the State of Palestine, thereby destroying it. Why don't you blame the real destroyers of Palestine? There are two millions Israeli Arabs living in peace. The Arab populations of both Israel and the territories have grown rapidly. Why lie about displacement?
    Reply
  • DavidDavidson
    "Most Israeli Jews are descended from Arab and Persian Jews, most of whom were expelled and had nowhere else to go except to Israel."
    If we are talking about the Yiddish and other European Jews who were persecuted during WWII, that would be false. They are as white as day. Many of the ones you speak of who are arabic were living in the middle east and Palestine already in some capacity. Yes, the Ottoman Empire had a tax for being non-Muslim, but that's besides the point.

    "Why is Israel's 1% of the land too much for you?"
    Because they don't just want 1% of the land, and they are hell-bent (at least Bibi is) on exterminating anyone who isn't them from the land. Even if they were living there before the occupation.

    "The British prevented Jewish immigration, which resulted in six million Jews being murdered instead of immigrating"
    This is true of the United States and many other places too. But what does this have to do with establishing the State of Israel, in 1948, after the war? Even the initial Balfour Declaration was meant to secure rights of existing Palestinians on the land and was ambiguous as to whether the entire area of present-day Israel was meant to be controlled by a Jewish State.

    "In 1948 Egypt and Jordan invaded, occupied, and annexed what would have become the State of Palestine, thereby destroying it"Uh, I think this shows even more your confusion with the history and facts. They invaded in 1948 because they believed in self-determination for the Palestinians, not the State of Israel having complete domination from the river to the sea. Let's also not forget al-Nakba, there is blood on Israeli hands too.

    "There are two millions Israeli Arabs living in peace. The Arab populations of both Israel and the territories have grown rapidly. Why lie about displacement?"
    Most of them live between one of eight refugee camps (although one may have been destroyed recently) in Gaza. That's hardly living peacefully. A Palestinian cannot drive in the same places as an Israeli for instance, hence the accusations of apartheid.

    It's 100% clear that, at least Bibi's faction wants total domination and extermination of Palestinians. Why lie about displacement?
    Reply
  • sko721
    Everything you wrote is either a lie or incredibly misleading. The worst part is that you know exactly what you are doing, yet you perisist in your hilarious yet nonetheless chilling nonsense.
    Reply