A Hoard of Ptolemaic Coins found in Murabba‘at Cave II in the Judean Desert

Eitan Klein, Gabriela Bijovsky, AMIR GANOR, Hagay Hamer, Oria Amichay, Esther Eshel, Mark Cavanagh, Dafna Langgut, Eitan Kremer, Yigal Sitry, Naama Sukenik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Murabba‘at Cave II is situated in the cliffy area on the northern bank of Nahal Darga, about 2 km west of the Dead Sea. It is a complex cave formed by the dissolution of Shivta-Formation limestone below the water table. Its total length is approximately 90 m and it has three levels. Previous excavations have shown the cave to be one of the richest in the Judean Desert in terms of finds from various periods. Among the many finds was an ancient wooden box containing a Ptolemaic coin-hoard from the reign of Ptolemy VI, which was discovered in a crevice near a shaft leading down to the interior cavities. This article presents and discusses the hoard, a typical emergency hoard, with all its components, while considering its geographical-historical context. Several possible historical events may have led to the hoard’s deposition, mainly the Sixth Syrian War and the Maccabean Revolt.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-92
Number of pages40
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Israel Antiquities Authority. All rights reserved.


The authors would like to thank Yotam Asscher, Head of the Artifact Treatment Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Lena Kupershmidt and Ilya Reznitsky from the Metal Laboratory and Ilan Naor from the Organic Materials laboratory, for the conservation work performed. We would like to thank Shiri Ellenbogen, the Virtual Anthropology Laboratory Manager at Tel Aviv University; Ilit Cohen Ofri and Shai Halevi, for helping with interpreting the photographs; Irena Lidski-Reznikov, for her illustrations; and Dafna Gazit, for the photographs. Furthermore, we thank Dr. David Iluz, Dr. Said Abu-Gush and Prof. Zohar Amar, who collaborated in the dye research, which was supported by Israel Science Foundation (ISF) Grant No. 1143/19. We would also like to thank Zvi Greenhut, Robert Kool and Adrian Ganor for their great assistance in processing the hoard, and A. Levy-Reifer from the Ashkelon Academic College. Finally, we would like to thank the staff, students and volunteers for their work during the excavation seasons. 9 The dye-analysis research was undertaken by Dr. Naama Sukenik, Dr. David Iluz, Dr. Said Abu-Ghosh, Yaniv Avissar, Dr. Anna Rossin and Prof. Zohar Amar as part of the dyes research project, and will be published separately. The dye research was supported by funding from the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 1143/19; 1880/17). 10 Two different samples were dissolved in 150 µL DMSO, and heated for 10 min at 95ºC. The liquid was then separated from the sample by centrifugation and transferred to a sterile Eppendorf 1.5 mL microtube to be processed by HPLC. Two analytical protocols were used: Protocol A for analysis of red-brown-black dyes, and Protocol B for analysis of blue dyes. The mobile phase for Protocol A consisted of a linear gradient of acetonitrile and 100mM ammonium acetate pH4: acetonitrile (9:1 v/v), with the flow rate of 1mL/min and injection volume of 25 µL. The mobile phase for Protocol B was made up of A: phosphoric acid 0.5% (w/v), B: methanol, and C: H2O. The flow rate was held at 1 ml/min and 10 µL injections were made (for more details on the gradient elution conditions, see Sukenik et al. 2017: Table 3).

FundersFunder number
Artifact Treatment Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Ashkelon Academic College
Dafna Gazit
Shiri Ellenbogen
Israel Science Foundation1880/17, 1143/19
Tel Aviv University

    IHP Publications

    • ihp
    • Coin hoards
    • Coins, Ancient
    • Eretz Israel -- Antiquities, Roman
    • Jews -- History -- 132-135, Bar Kokhba Rebellion
    • Judean Desert


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