Judaea Coin Find Aids Theory of Ancient Revolt
By Richard Giedroyc
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
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,”
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
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
“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’.”