A resident of Beit Shemesh has been arrested on suspicion of engaging in the systematic theft of antiquities. More than 800 ancient coins were found in his possession, together with jewelry, arrowheads and other archaeological artifacts.
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The suspect was caught a week ago by a squad of Border Police troops on a routine patrol at the antiquities site near Moshav Naham. A search of the man’s possessions turned up a metal detector that is used mostly by antiquities thieves, together with several ancient artifacts made of bronze. These findings led to a search of his home, which turned up hundreds of coins and other artifacts. Among the coins found in his home, researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority found coins from the Persian era in the fifth century B.C.E., and coins from the later Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
The man confessed during questioning that he had searched for antiquities in Beit Shemesh, where he lives, using a metal detector. He was released with restrictions to await indictment in the near future.
“Searching for coins at archaeological sites using a metal detector is a serious crime,” says Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery. “Taking the coin away from the archaeological site causes irreversible damage and prevents us from reconstructing information. It wipes out an entire chapter of the archaeological site’s history. The theft of coins from an archaeological site hurts the chances of studying the history of the nation and the land – just for the sake of greed, nothing else.”