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Last Updated: Friday, 18 April, 2003, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Israeli caves yield ancient coins
Israeli archaeologists have discovered coins they believe date back to a failed second-century Jewish rebellion against Roman rule.

Either side of the Petra Drachma coin
Rebellious Jews overlaid their own stamps on top of the Roman emperor
They were discovered in caves near the Dead Sea, which families passed through as they fled the brutal repression that ended the three-year rebellion, led by Shimon Bar Kochba in 132 AD.

The nine coins - which together would have been worth enough to buy a house - were found under a rock, and are a significant addition to patchy archaeological findings for the period.

Of particular interest is the silver Petra Drachma, at 12 grams (1/2 ounce) the largest Jewish coin ever minted.

On one side, Jerusalem's second temple - destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD - is stamped over a portrait of a Roman emperor.

The other side shows the four plant species used during ceremonies for the festival of Sukkot.

Few records

"Bar Kochba never minted his own coins, so what we have here is a Roman coin with the temple and the four species stamped over the portrait of the Roman emperor," said Hanan Eshel, speaking to the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Eshel, who is head of the Jewish Studies and Archaeology Department of Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, led the archaeological digs near the Ein Gedi oasis with help from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Centre for Cave Research.

Although some 2,000 coins from the rebellion are known to exist, this is only the second time some have been discovered on site by archaeologists, he said.

"Neither the Jews or the Romans considered the rebellion to be a success, so very little was written about it," said Mr Eshel.

"That is why archaeological finds are so important."

The coins will go on public display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

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