By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek….
On December 31, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced that it had recovered over 800 ancient coins from the house of a Beit Shemesh man who confessed to looting items from a local archaeological site.
The unidentified man, who is in his 50s, was apprehended by border police while on a routine patrol at the archaeological site of Khirbat Marmita, a Roman-Byzantine Jewish town. The site is 1 km to the east of Naham, a town on the outskirts of Beit Shemesh.
When police arrested him, the man was using a metal detector and had several ancient bronze pieces in his possession. The border police then contacted investigators at the IAA, who interrogated him.
At first, the man denied having anything to do with ancient coins, but eventually confessed that he often used his metal detector to look for ancient coins around the local area.
Investigators then searched the man’s home, finding over 800 coins and numerous other artifacts. The haul included Roman, Hellenistic Greek (i.e., from the era of Alexander the Great), Ottoman and fifth century BCE Persian coins. Other items included bronze necklaces, seals, arrowheads and cosmetic tools.
Dr. Eitan “Ethan” Klein of the Israel Antiquities Authority told the Times of Israel that removing the objects from the archaeological site nullifies the scientific value of such artifacts, since their provenance and connection to other articles at the site can no longer be established.
He also told the Times that the IAA had caught more than a hundred antiquity thieves in 2014.
In Israel, damage to an archaeological site is punishable by up to five years in prison.