Roi Porat, Hebrew University

Bar Kokhba Refuge Caves in the Area between Ein Gedi and Qumran, in light of the Renewed Research Project in the Judean Desert.

During the course of the renewed research project of the Judean Desert, during the years 2001 –2006, more than ten Bar Kokhba-period refuge caves that were previously unknown were discovered in the cliffy area that runs between Ein Gedi and Qumran. The general fieldwork of this project included the systematic multidisciplinary survey of over 400 caves which were then plotted and described in detail. Geological data was collected along with zoological and botanical data which easily provide a rich basis for several diverse studies. A thorough archaeological survey was conducted in all of the 400 caves while archaeological excavations were carried out in a select few producing artifacts from different periods. Artifacts found in the caves from the Bar Kokhba period include numerous coins, some of which are directly dated to the Bar Kokhba Revolt, an assortment of weapons, metal, pottery, glass, and stone objects, organic finds such as woven textiles, food remains, wood and bone objects as well as written documents in Greek on papyrus and the fragments of a Biblical scroll.

Archaeological evidence shows that the rebels fleeing the Roman forces found refuge in the numerous caves found throughout the entire eastern area of Judea and in particular those caves located densely along the cliffs of that extend from Ein Gedi to Jericho. Essentially these caves are characterized as large, remote from any settlements, and for the most part almost inaccessible. However, it appears that at times more easily reachable smaller caves located closer to settlements were also used. The geographical distribution and the character of the caves prove that during the Bar Kokhba revolt and up until the arrival of the Roman forces to depress the revolt the rebels were in control of the Judean Desert region and the western coast of the Dead Sea.

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