Man Busted Stealing Ancient Artifacts in Israel, Found With Coin From The Times of Chanukah

In the course of Border Police activity northwest of Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet, a 33-year-old resident of Kiryat Shemona was spotted using a metal detector in a registered archaeological site. He was detained for questioning, and in his bag, were found ancient coins, various digging implements, and a metal detector.

The Israel Antiquities Authority Department for the Prevention of Archaeological Theft arrived at the site, detained the suspect for questioning, and carried out a search in his house, discovering many finds that he had collected in the course of his illegal digging activities.

One find was especially interesting – an ancient coin of Antiochos IV, dated to 169–164 BCE. “Antiochos IV was designated ‘Epiphanes’, meaning ‘God Manifest”, but behind his back, his subjects called him ‘Epimanes’ – The Madman”, says Dr. Danny Syon, coin specialist and Israel Antiquities Authority pensioner. “Antiochos IV was infamous for his decrees against the Jews and for desecrating the Jerusalem Temple, and the Hasmonean (Maccabean) Revolt broke out in his reign, but he also advanced his empire economically, granting special privileges to 19 cities in the Seleucid Kingdom, including the right to mint civic coins. The coin found in the suspect’s house was minted in the city of Tyre, and it was common currency in the country at the time.”

The Israel Antiquities Authority emphasizes that searching for antiquities at archaeological sites with a metal detector, and collecting antiquities is against the law. The punishment for such is 3 years imprisonment. Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority emphasizes, “Stealing finds from ancient sites, negates the possibility of researching the artifacts and the sites in their true archaeological and historical context, thus withholding valuable knowledge from researchers and the entire community.
The suspect was released after questioning. The metal detector was retained as a legal exhibit, and the Israel Antiquities Authority will determine whether to prosecute the suspect.

Photos: Nir Distelfeld, Israel Antiquities Authority

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