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Archaeology

Busted: Thousands of ancient coins and arrowheads seized from northern Israel home

Israel Antiquities Authority theft prevention unit says Afula man illegally dug up and traded in ancient finds, likely also smuggled items abroad to public auctions

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

  • Israel Antiquities Authority inspectors examine finds taken during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)
    Israel Antiquities Authority inspectors examine finds taken during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)
  • Coins taken during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)
    Coins taken during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)
  • Ancient arrowheads seized during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)
    Ancient arrowheads seized during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)
  • Ancient rings seized during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)
    Ancient rings seized during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)
  • Ancient weights seized during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)
    Ancient weights seized during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)
  • Ancient silver coins seized during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)
    Ancient silver coins seized during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)

An Israel Antiquities Authority bust in the northern Israeli city of Afula late last week yielded thousands of ancient coins and arrowheads, the authority said on Tuesday.

An Afula resident is suspected of illegal trade and illegally excavating antiquities at archaeological sites, causing untold damage, and the use of a metal detector to discover thousands of gold, silver and bronze coins.

The man was detained at the Afula police station, questioned, and confessed to committing the offenses. The suspect’s case will be examined by the IAA for the filing of an indictment.

Following intelligence information and a covert investigation in cooperation with international law enforcement agencies, the IAA’s theft prevention unit raided the Afula Ilit resident’s home on July 7. The suspect allegedly smuggled at least part of the illegally obtained antiquities abroad for sale in public auctions.

According to Ilan Hadad, who heads the IAA unit, the suspect is known to the authorities and was even convicted of similar crimes in the past.

“Apparently the punishment was not adequate for him to learn from his mistakes,” said Hadad.

According to the 1978 Antiquities Law, all antiquities discovered in Israel post-1978 are the property of the State of Israel. Anyone who finds an artifact must turn it over to the Israel Antiquities Authority within 15 days.

Ancient rings seized during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)

It is forbidden to trade in antiquities without receiving a license from the Culture Ministry or from the IAA. All antiquities shipped abroad must be registered and shipped through a licensed dealer. The IAA reserves the right to confiscate any item not registered.

Failure to abide by the antiquities law can bring a sentence of up to two years in jail.

“It’s heartbreaking to see how people are harming antiquities sites and looting ancient finds, thereby disrupting the restoration of our history for the sake of greed,” said Hadad.

Ancient finds seized during the search of a home in Afula, July 7, 2022. (Yoli Schwartz/IAA)

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