Spelunkers' Big Find: Ancient Treasure
The coins and jewels date back 2,300 years
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2015 9:16 AM CDT
You never know what you'll find in the dark.   (Clara Amit/ the Israel Antiquities Authority)

(Newser) – Last month it was amateur scuba divers stumbling upon a treasure trove of submerged coins in Israel. Now three amateur spelunkers from the Israeli Caving Club have alerted authorities to a stash of ancient coins and jewels that appear to date back 2,300 years, to the time of Alexander the Great. What's more, the Israel Antiquities Authority says that archaeologists who further explored the hard-to-reach stalactite-filled cave over the weekend found "evidence of human habitation" dating back 6,000 years to the Chalcolithic period, reports Discovery. Some of the pottery vessels found in the cave had even merged with the limestone sediments.

"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," said an IAA statement, speculating that someone stashed it in the chaos following Alexander's death. Among the jewels, two silver coins allowed archaeologists to date the stash to the reign of Alexander the Great; on one side is a depiction of the man, while on the other Zeus is raising his arms on a throne. Silver jewelry—including rings, bracelets, and earrings—are part of the find, which researchers say was probably initially stashed in a cloth pouch, reports CNN. The intricate and well-preserved earrings are thought to be especially valuable. An IAA official applauded the cavers' "exemplary civic behavior." (Not all spelunkers in Israel have been quite so honest of late.)