The 'Caves of the Spear': Refuge Caves from the Bar-Kokhba Revolt North of ʿEn-Gedi


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Publication Date

January 2009


A group of caves used for refuge by Jews at the end of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt was found along the cliff facing the Dead Sea, north of cEn-Gedi, during an archaeological survey we conducted in 2001-2004 (Porat and Eshel 2002).1 The refuge caves yielded archaeological remains from the Bar-Kokhba Revolt, including Bar-Kokhba coins, pottery, glassware and weapons. Among the weapons was a unique spearhead, after which the 'Caves of the Spear' were named. These finds accord well with other remains from the end of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt found in refuge caves in the region, and offer an important contribution to the study of the phenomenon of the refuge caves between cEn-Gedi and Wadi Murabbacat. The Caves of the Spear (figs. 1-2) are located in the upper part of the cliff facing the Dead Sea, c. 2.5 km south of Rosh Hatzatzon (Ras Abu el-Quba), at the top of an escarpment that continues to the north-east from the top of a huge water fall (roughly 300 m. high) of a stream called Wadi Marrazah, flowing north of Mitzpe Arnon (Ras Majbah Sacid cUbeideh; map ref. 18653/10495). They consist of five natural caves created by the dissolution of soluble Shivta Formation limestone and dolomite. Two are large subterranean spaces, dozens of metres long; three are medium to small caves, situated one on top of the other (figs. 3-4). The cave openings are almost entirely concealed from the bottom and top of the cliff. Access to them is possible only by descent from the top of the cliff.


Caves, Excavations, Pottery, Wadis, Chalcolithic Period, Refugees, Spears, Sandals, Discuses, Textiles




Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 59, no. 1 (2009-01-01).