Israeli officers arrested five would-be antiquities thieves in a cave at an ancient site between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.
The men, West Bank Palestinians, were apprehended after a scuffle with antiquities inspectors early Saturday, according to the statement. They had been spotted scouring the site with a metal detector, and are suspected of looting other sites in the same area near the city of Modi’in.
Among those sites was one given a cryptic mention in the Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as a possible location for the burial of the treasures of the Jewish Temple. According to the Antiquities Authority, that mention has made the site a popular target for thieves.
The suspects also managed to uncover a Jewish ritual bath that dates from the time of the Second Temple and was not previously known to archaeologists, according to the statement. However valuable the find, however, the men also destroyed important archaeological layers and “brought about the loss of much knowledge about the historical background of the area,” the statement said.
The men remain under arrest.