Some 1,800 ancient coins, pieces of jewelry and seals, clay cuneiform tablets, and an ancient bronze figurine, were seized on Sunday from the home of a Modiin dealer in illegal antiquities. Some of the recovered coins are scientifically significant and of great value. They include ancient silver coins from the Persian Period, coins from the time of the Hasmoneans and the Great Revolt of 66–73 CE, including a sheqel coin from that era, and coins that bear the name “Shimon” of the leader of the 132 CE Bar Kochva rebellion.
The recovered treasure also includes silver coins from the Hellenistic Period, bronze coins from the Roman Period, and Jewish coins from the time of the Second Temple.
An extraordinary silver sheqel from the days of the Great Revolt was discovered in the suspect’s workroom. On one side appears the inscription: “Holy Jerusalem” decorated with a cluster of three pomegranates; the other side features the inscription “Sheqel of Israel Year 2” above a goblet decoration. The looted coin was in the process of being polished.
The raid by the inspectors of the Israel Antiquities Authority Robbery Prevention Unit with assistance from the Modiin Police was carried out with a court order based on suspicion that the dealer was involved in trading in antiquities without a license.
The IAA inspectors identified fresh soil on some of the coins and other objects, suggesting they had recently been removed from illegal excavations in sites throughout the country.
“It is heartbreaking to think about the numerous antiquity sites which were destroyed for monetary gain by merchants who sell out our heritage”, said Ilan Haddad, the IAA Inspector of Trading in Antiquities. “We are talking about our collective history, and it will be impossible to reconstruct.”
In another room, the inspectors discovered dozens of coins in mailing envelopes addressed to recipients, ready for shipping abroad.
According to Haddad, “the operation by the IAA Robbery Prevention Unit and the Modiin police thwarted the smuggling of ancient objects from Israel to foreign markets. we suspect that the man dealt in antiquities without a license for an extended period. The suspect covered his tracks, and we suspect that he smuggled thousands of coins out of the country. The suspect has been dealing in antiquities for many years and is knowledgeable about the law, but knowingly chose to break it.”
During his interrogation, the suspect admitted to illegal dealings in smuggling hundreds of coins out of the country and purchasing coins from robbers and illegal merchants in Judea and Samaria in violation of the law.
According to Eli Askozido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “the inspectors of the IAA struggle day and night with the looting and illegal trading of antiquities. The ancient finds belong to the state and the public. A unique story about the history and heritage of the country can be learned from every coin. Unlicensed traders who acquire coins from robbers and thieves encourage the looting of ancient treasures that are torn away from their historical context. The IAA will continue its cooperation with law enforcement agencies to thwart the illegal antiquities trade.”
Upon completion of the Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit’s report, the Modiin resident is expected to be indicted.