Bar Kochba Treasure Map? Say What?

If this wasn’t in Arutz Sheva, I might not even bother posting this:

Antiquities Authority officials over the weekend arrested a gang of Arabs who were using an ancient manuscript as a “treasure map,” as they proceeded to dig up a well-know archaeological site in the Modi’in area. The site, Khurbat Kharuvta, has been raided numerous times over the past years, after a scroll found in a previous archaeological dig. According to the scroll, which dates back to the days of the Bar Kochva revolt nearly 2,000 years ago, Jewish soldiers hid gold coins and other valuable objects at the site.

Archaeological Authority officials caught five members of a gang, from a village near Hevron, who broke into the site Friday night. Officials said that the gang caused a great deal of damage to the site, which was a Jewish settlement during the days after the Second Temple period. Among other things, the officials said, the thieves dug up an ancient mikveh during their search for the coins – but proceeded to destroy at, as they excavated further in search of the treasure.

This seems to be a similar report with slightly different details:

Israeli officers arrested five would-be antiquities thieves in a cave at an ancient site between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.

The men, West Bank Palestinians, were apprehended after a scuffle with antiquities inspectors early Saturday, according to the statement. They had been spotted scouring the site with a metal detector, and are suspected of looting other sites in the same area near the city of Modi’in.

Among those sites was one given a cryptic mention in the Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as a possible location for the burial of the treasures of the Jewish Temple. According to the Antiquities Authority, that mention has made the site a popular target for thieves.

The suspects also managed to uncover a Jewish ritual bath that dates from the time of the Second Temple and was not previously known to archaeologists, according to the statement. However valuable the find, however, the men also destroyed important archaeological layers and “brought about the loss of much knowledge about the historical background of the area,” the statement said.

The men remain under arrest.

I can’t find any reference to this site (with that name) on the web, other than in this article and spinoffs. I’m going to assume — possibly erroneously — that the scroll is one mentioned by Robert Cargill three years ago (new bar-kokhba scroll discovered?) which I don’t believe we mentioned at rogueclassicism for some reason. An article from Ha’aretz at the time (May or June of 2009)

Two Palestinians were arrested Tuesday for allegedly stealing a rare antique Hebrew scroll and attempting to sell it for millions of dollars.

Police apprehended the two suspects in Jerusalem after an intelligence tip allowed police forces to trace their tracks and intercept the document’s sale.

The rare historical document, handwritten in Hebrew on papyrus paper and estimated to be more than 2,000 years old, is a bill surrendering property rights. The document was written by a widow named Miryam Ben Yaakov, and hails from a period in which the people of Israel were exiled from the area and very few Jews remained.

The scroll also, unusually, clearly indicates a precise date on the first line: “Year 4 to the destruction of Israel”. The intention is, presumably, either to the year 74 C.E. (the year when the Second Temple was destroyed during the Great Revolt) or to 138 A.D. (the annihilation of the Jewish settlement following the Bar Kokhva revolt).

The Israel Antiquities Authority said on Wednesday that the scroll was an “exceptional archeological document, of the like but a few exist,” adding that similar scrolls had been sold worldwide for sums as high as $5-$10 million.

The IAA estimated that the seized document was indeed authentic, but the final verdict will arrive only after it returns from a series of laboratory tests.

The document was apparently stolen from a cave within Israel’s borders where antiquities raiders were digging.

“We don’t know from which cave it was exactly stolen, “said Amir Nur, director of the anti-antiquities theft division.

“If we had known we would have searched for more scrolls in that area.”

Police investigator Eli Cohen said Wednesday that officers was looking into how the suspects arrived at the scroll, and were they involved in other antiquities robberies.

The current scroll came undone somewhat while it was excavated, something which wouldn’t have happened, according to the AA, if it would have been removed in a professional excavation.

According to the Antiquities Authorities’ law all of the archeological artifacts within Israel’s borders, excavated or otherwise, are state property and fall under the responsibility of the Antiquities Authority.

In fact, any trading in artifacts is considered illegal in Israel, with the exception of a small number of cases authorized by the IAA.

… or am I confusing two different things? From a dig or a cave? Has the 2009 find been published? And then there’s that mention of the Copper Scroll … hmmmm

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