The entrances to the Cave of Letters (the two openings slightly right of center in the photo) lie 300 feet below the desert plateau and 650 above the valley floor.
Forty years ago, Yigael Yadin explored the cave and found a trove of items that he associated with warriors of Bar-Kokhba, the leader of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132–135 C.E.). In 1999 and 2000, excavators at the Galilee site of Bethsaida returned to the cave, prompted by a puzzling find: They had uncovered, in a first-century C.E. Roman temple, a small shovel that was an almost exact match to a shovel found by Yadin in the Cave of Letters. How could two identical items come from a first-century C.E. Roman temple and from a second-century C.E. Jewish hideout?