Three members of the Israeli Caving Club, Reuven Zakai, Chen Zakai and a Lior Haloney recently lowered themselves into a well-hidden stalactite cave, wriggled through a narrow passageway and happened upon the shiny objects.
A handful of coins, rings, bracelets and earrings were all discovered together inside a cloth pouch dating back some 2,300 years ago.
Archaeologists say the coins were likely minted during the reign of Alexander the Great, and the artifacts first date to the Chalcolithic period about 6,000 years ago; from the Early Bronze Age roughly 5,000 years ago, the Biblical period 3,000 years ago and the Hellenistic period approximately 2,300 years ago.
“The valuables might have been hidden in the cave by local residents who fled there during the period of governmental unrest stemming from the death of Alexander, a time when the Wars of the Diadochi broke out in Israel between Alexander’s heirs following his death,” according to archaeologists at the Israel Antiquities Authority. "Presumably the cache was hidden in the hope of better days, but today we know that whoever buried the treasure never returned to collect it."
Working off this discovery, archaeologists and geologists will be able to accurately date both the archaeological finds and the process of stalactite development, according to the Authority’s statement.
Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery in the Israel Antiquities Authority, thanked the cavers for their “exemplary civic behavior," praising the "citizens' awareness." Following last month’s discovery by civilian scuba divers, Ganor welcomes this "important trend."