Large wine jars, a cooking pot and other pottery vessels over 2000 years old have been salvaged in a complex operation from a cave on a cliff in a nature reserve near Israel's the northern border with Lebanon.
The vessels dating from between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC were found last year but have only just been recovered because of the difficulty of getting them out.
They were discovered by Dr Yinon Shivtiel, a speleologist and senior lecturer in Land of Israel Studies at the Zefat Academic College, who was conducting a survey in Western Galilee to locate caves that served as shelters and hiding places.
In the course of the survey he was surprised to discover a cave high on a sheer cliff, under an overhang, which contained ancient pottery vessels.
The fragile vessels were salvaged by Shivtiel, Dr Danny Syon, senior archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority and specialist cave researchers with members of the Israel Cave Explorers Club.
The excavators climbed up ropes into the cave and in a coordinated and strenuous effort in a confined space succeeded in carrying out an archaeological excavation, in the course of which two intact wine amphoras (jars), several storage jars, a bowl, a cooking pot, two juglets and broken shards of several more jars were dug out.
The vessels were wrapped in a protective plastic sheet and were lowered in padded bags some 30m over rope slides controlled from below and reached the base of the cliff safely. The team carried the finds on foot to the cars and they were taken to an Israel Antiquities Authority facility for restoration and research.
Dr Syon said: 'Considering that cooking and serving vessels were found, it would appear that those who brought them planned to live there for a while. We assume that whoever hid here escaped some violent event that occurred in the area. Perhaps by dating the vessels more closely, we shall be able to tie them to a known historic event. It is mind boggling how the vessels were carried to the cave, which is extremely difficult to access. Maybe an easier way that once existed disappeared over time.'