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Israeli Authorities Prevent Smuggling

August 8, 2005
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The weight is made of bronze and was used by businessmen and traders during the Bar-Kochba period (AD 132–135). On the weight, “Year 3” is inscribed, referring to the third year of Jewish autonomy during that era. There are also letters that appear to spell “Shimon Bar-Kochba—Prince of Israel.” Jewish symbols, such as palm branches and a menorah, are carved into the weight as well.

The head of the unit for preventing antiquities smuggling, Amir Ganor, said that the smugglers attempted to hide the weight inside a book. They carved a hole inside the book by cutting out parts of its pages. Postal workers discovered the weight during a routine search; they alerted customs officials, who in turn called in members of the Antiquities Authority.

An initial investigation revealed that the smuggling of a rare archaeological artifact had been attempted, leading to the arrest of the smuggler. The smuggler turned out to be a former antiquities dealer and expert in antiquities law. His legal knowledge made it obvious to him that exporting such an artifact would not be approved, as it falls into the class of archaeological artifacts of national importance.

Ganor said that the weight was only the fifth of its kind ever discovered. The significance of the weights lies in what they teach about the Bar-Kochba revolt. The weights were a symbol of autonomy from the Roman government, as attested by the inscription “Shimon Bar-Kochba—Prince of Israel.” The expert attempted to send the weight to an international antiquities expert, one who is widely published and visits Israel at least twice a year to transport approved artifacts from Israel to America.

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