The Haruba archaeological site near Modi’in is famous because it is mentioned in what is known as the Copper Scroll - the only one of the Dead Sea Scrolls that was engraved on copper instead of parchment. The ancient document is in fact a kind of puzzle relating to the whereabouts of the legendary treasures of the holy Temple in Jerusalem.
One night about two weeks ago, five suspected antiquities robbers were caught at Haruba. The treasures ostensibly hidden there in ancient days, as reported in the scroll, were not found in their possession. However, while they rummaged about, the robbers did uncover a nearby mikveh (ritual bath ) dating to the Second Temple period that was previously unknown to scholars.
Inspectors from the Israel Antiquities Authority first spotted six people digging in the antiquities site of Khirbat Regev, which is also not far from Modi’in, and using a metal-detector to find ancient coins. Afterward, the diggers - with the inspectors secretly following them - moved on to the Haruba site, where they hid in a cave. A scuffle ensued during which five would-be robbers were apprehended and a sixth got away.
The suspects are Palestinians from the village of Beit Ula in the Hebron region, men in their 30s, some of them known to the IAA because of previous offenses. IAA officials found that the suspects’ excavation caused damage to the sites they were attempting to loot.
“The discovery of the mikveh could have been an important contribution from a research standpoint, but its exposure by uncontrolled digging, involving destruction of archaeological strata in the process, led to a loss of information,” says Amir Ganor, director of the IAA’s robbery prevention division.
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